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Tuesday October 16, 2012

Butterfly garden

butterfly garden

Hey everybody, check out my butterfly garden. Actually, it looks a little sad right now. It’d been planted for awhile and was getting overgrown, so I replanted everything Sunday to give it more space. Consider this a “before” picture.

butterfly garden

That’s not to say there aren’t some flowers happening. How this happened is that Hillary and I were visiting Fairchild like a year ago and happened into conversation with a very knowledgeable volunteer in the butterfly garden. Before you know it I was jotting down names of flowers on my phone (Milkweed, Corkeystone Passion Vine, Border Weed, Tropical Sage, Egyptian Star Clusters, Scorpion’s Tail). He recommended checking out Richard Lyons Nursery”:http://www.rarefloweringtrees.com/, which sure enough is an amazing place.

butterfly garden

The guy at Richard Lyons recommended one or two more plants, and these five are the ones we came home with. Milkweed and Passion Vine are for sure in the mix, but I don’t remember what the other ones are. No matter, really, because we have seen exactly ONE butterfly this whole time — this weekend (maybe it’s the start of an influx, tho I doubt it; we’re near the bay, and I doubt butterflies like the salt air?).

butterfly garden

This is the Passion Vine. But in any case, I’ll keep y’all updated. Now that I’ve got this post, it should be easy to drop in more photos as the everything fills in.

butterfly garden

Hey, lizard, this trellis is not for you! This PDF is a pretty great resource on planting a butterfly garden in Florida. It’s complicated! For best results, you’re supposed to take into account plants that are common within a quarter mile of you, among a grid of other factors. I sprawling Miami I should think this amounts to doing trial and error with lots of the species on the list.

butterfly garden

The idea though, is that you need a combination of plants — some that attract butterfly larva, and flowering plants that the adults feed on. Then, different species of butterflies like different plants (some like rotting fruit and manure). The Miami Blue Chapter of the National Butterfly association is an excellent resource. I am also to point out that there is a thing called Butterfly World, and their website at least is a rare and beautiful flower.

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Tuesday July 10, 2012

What's up with Pit Bulls?

pit bull miami referendum

“Shall the ordinance repealing the county’s 23 year old law prohibiting the ownership of pit bulls as a dangerous breed of dogs become effective?”

That’s on the ballot for Miami-Dade residents on August 14th. We’ve got one of the oldest of the municipal bans on pit bulls in the country, and now it’s up for reconsideration. Let’s put aside the typically idiotic language of the ballot and consider the the matter. Despite the blowhard arguments made by some pit bull advocates (see image), it seems to be not obvious what the right thing to do here. Banning anything is an invasive government action, and it needs to be well justified before it can even be considered. Are pit bulls more dangerous than other breeds? And if so, is a ban the correct response?

Statistics

Here is a report of dog bite statistics by breed covering almost thirty years. Scrolling through the list is sobering. For “attacks doing bodily harm,” most dogs are in the single digits. Some are notably higher: Boxers, 48; German Shephards, 89; Labradors(!), 45. But pit bulls stand head and shoulders above them all with 1970 attacks. But wait, there’s also information about the percentage of the dog population some of the breeds account for, and pit bulls, at .033, are actually very high up in that sense. Well, luckily I’ve crunched the numbers for you. Here’s a handy dandy Excel spreadsheet (csv) which includes only the breeds for which the species percentage is given, sorted by the score (column H) that weighs the number of attacks against the prevalence of the breed. According to this chart, Rottweiler’s are far and away the most dangerous breed, followed by Wolf hybrid, followed by Pit bull terrier, Bull mastiff, Akita, Boxer, and Chow. Labradors, German Shepherds, and Great Danes round out the top 10.

But even within the top 10 there is a fast and significant drop-off. A pit bull is 10 times as likely to attack a human as a German Shepherd. A Rottweiler is 13 times as likely to attack as a Boxer. Taken on its face, the statistics show that the top few breeds are indeed much more dangerous than all other dogs, per individual animal. Together, pit bulls, Rotweilers, and Wolf hybrids account for 77% of attacks that induce bodily harm.

There are two big problems with these numbers. First, they don’t take into account total populations. They compare breeds against each other, but say nothing about how dangerous, statistically, a given animal is. If you’re confronted by a pit bull, what are your chances of being harmed? Or to put it another way, for an individual pit bull, what are the chances that it will bite a human in its lifetime. 1 percent? A tenth of a percent? A thousandth of a percent? It seems crazy to consider banning anything without this information. Perhaps just as important, the statistics are compiled in a way that’s not quite scientific. They’re based on media reports. That means they’re subject to all kinds of bias: people underreporting bites by smaller or less “threatening” species, people assuming that a dog was a pit bull in part because it bit someone, and other issues concerning identifying a breed. The Center for Disease Control has pointed out that these studies are unreliable.

Owners

And yet those studies are the best information we have. They may be substantially flawed, but it’s hard to believe that they’re so flawed as to invalidate the basic trend they point to. Let’s address a few of the other arguments that get made in this debate

Q. “It’s not the dog — it’s the owner!” Any species of dog can attack a human, and most of the so-called “dangerous” dogs are perfectly loving and well-behaved companion animals. Some people raise dogs either incompetently, or in a way that makes them deliberately aggressive. Don’t punish the dogs and the vast majority of responsible owners.

A. We’ve tried punishing the owners. In some cases, owners have been fined as much as $7 million, and any dog that seriously bites someone is destroyed. We’ve tried education. And yet attacks by pit bulls and other dangerous breeds are on the rise, despite laws banning and restricting the dogs in areas around the country. It may be the owners’ fault, but that’s just as much of a reason to ban the dangerous breeds.

Q. “Pit bull isn’t even a real breed” The term can refer to a number of different breeds, and legislation usually adds the phrase “and similar dogs.” How can you pass a law when the situation is such a mess?

A. All dog breeds are a human construct. Some are better defined and some less well defined. Strictly speaking, when we talk about pit bulls, we usually are talking about the American Staffordshire Terrier, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, The English Bull Terrier, and the American Pit Bull Terrier. You identify a pit bull the same way you identify a more strictly defined breed: a casual identification by sight, and verification by DNA test.

Q. Here, let me show you some tragic stories of children maimed and killed by pit bulls Isn’t any death tragic?

A. Of course it’s tragic. But we’re trying to have a society here, and we’re dealing with lots and lots of people. Look at how many people die in car accidents. What if it turns out you could save more lives by banning car radios (on the logic that car radios distract drivers and contribute to accidents)? What if it turns out you could save more lives by banning the use of car radios just on Sundays from 2 to 5 pm?

Think of the doggies

Neither side in this debate makes a good case. The pro-species-specific bans throws out deeply flawed and incomplete statistics and emotional accounts of individual cases. The pro-pit bull side argues that most dogs are harmless, and spend time refuting “myths” that nobody actually believes and ignoring the evidence that some breeds are more likely to bite, and more likely to injure and kill when they do bite.

In the end though, the conclusion is simple. 207 people were killed by pit bulls in the study we cited (the study from DogsBite.org, a pro-ban website). That’s 11 people per year, in a country of 300 million. Your chances of dying in a dog bite in a given year are somewhere in the range of 1 in 27,000,000. But actually there’s more to it than that: 75% of dog attacks occur on the owner’s property. Only 1% involve pit bulls being walked on a leash in public. Don’t like pit bulls? Don’t go to people’s houses that own them, and call the police when you see someone walking one without a leash.

The Miami referendum

The referendum to lift the Miami-Dade pit bull ban is worded terribly. It’s a result of the State of Florida threatening to overturn the ban, which is pretty irritating. And it may seem counterintuitive — even if the ban is wrong, it’s been in place so long, so why lift it now? But the ban was wrong when it was enacted, a knee-jerk reaction to news events. Lifting the ban is the right thing to do.

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Wednesday May 7, 2008

Shark Valley

Shark Valley

23 miles west of the Turnpike on Tamiami Trail (click the map above for Google directions), in the heart of the northern Everglades, sits something rather remarkable — an all-access, super-easy nature trail known as Shark Valley. The trail is paved, and accessible by foot, bicycle (bring your own or rent), or tram tour. By bike, it’s just the right length that just about anyone can sit on a bike and finish it at a leisurely pace. The trail is a loop, so at the end you end up back at the visitor center, but at the far end you’re deep into the Everglades, far from civilization, with the birds and the alligators. It’s sort of a must-do for anyone who lives anywhere in South Florida.

This is what it’s really like in the Everglades. Peaceful, and stretching on into forever with grass, occasional patches of solid ground and a few trees, and swamp (note the water visible at the bottom of this photo.

Bleh, I don’t have a photo of the gators you see hanging out just off the path, but they’re there. (No worries, they’ll leave you alone.) Did get this little guy sunning himself, though.

Mostly what you get is lots and lots of birds, in all different shapes and sizes. Not sure what this fellah was hunting in the muck. Something delicious probably. Previously, we met this guy.

At the farthest end of the loop, you come to a rather improbably lookout tower. The views are fantastic, but again, it’s more about the vastness, not something you can reproduce in a photo. Go check it out for yourself.

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Tuesday April 29, 2008

Hmm.. Daniel Brody’s cat PJ has a blog called Meow.

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Wednesday April 23, 2008

A little pussy chases a big cock. Ok ok let’s be nice — Miami, Bro has been rocking lately. Here’s two recent posts: Jimbo’s B-day bash, and Sneaking into clubs (easy, though it helps if you (1) have some gumption and/or (2) are a babe).

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OK, suppose you find an 8-foot alligator in your kitchen, between you and an open door. All you have is a broomstick. Can you prod the alligator out the door? (Bonus link: the temperature their eggs incubate at determines a gator’s gender.)

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Tuesday April 1, 2008

Key Deer

key deer

Someone asked awhile back what I thought of the Key Deer situation. The size of dogs, key deer have lived in the southern Keys since the whole area was attached to the mainland. They were hunted into near-extinction in the 1940s, and are today they’re on the endangered species list, and have a sanctuary in the southern keys, where development is highly limited, and fences block access to their habitat. That rubs some locals the wrong way, and some have taken it out on the defenseless animals killing them, often in grievous ways.

So, I’ll tell you: I think anyone who willfully harms one of these creatures should be sentenced to a slow and painful death. At the same time, if the government passed laws that infringe on property owner’s rights (and this applies to many more situations then just this one), I think they should be made whole — compensated for the difference between the land’s previous value and the land’s subsequent value. Bought your land after the laws were passed? Tough luck. But if you bought land, and subsequent laws make it impossible to do what you wanted to do with it? Well, that smells like a form of eminent domain to me, and I think the law should treat it as such.

BTW, I passed through the deer’s territory on the recent trip, but didn’t get a chance to hang out with them. Apparently they’re very friendly, and will come right up to you and eat out of your hand. Awwwww.

Image: Larry Korhnak/University of Florida.

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Monday March 17, 2008

Retirement age for US Border Patrol money-sniffing dogs? 9 years.

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Thursday March 13, 2008

A crocodile lives by the Coconut Grove Sailing Club, and that’s where he’s staying, because a “normally acting crocodile under six feet does not pose a threat to people’s safety.” Ahh, man and nature living side by side in perfect harmony.

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Tuesday March 4, 2008

South Florida roadkill gallery

Roadkill gallery

Here are some pretty troubling pictures. I took most of these late last year, and have been giving serious though about whether or not to run them. In the end, though, this is a slice of reality which we miss zipping around in our fancy cars, but it deserves a little bit of examination. Follow 14 pictures of what happens when nature intersects with our car culture. No cats or dogs — I was spared seeing any, and I wouldn’t have photographed them if I had. Pretty gruesome anyway, though. Click for slideshow.

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Tuesday February 26, 2008

Do not go out on the open ocean, dump bloody fish parts in the water to attract sharks, and then jump in the water after them. (Unless you absolutely have to.)

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Tuesday February 19, 2008

It’s sort of funny how we negotiate our co-existence with semi-domesticated animals living in the city. New laws passed in North Miami prohibit roosters, but a last-minute change allows people to feed feral cats, which they were considering outlawing.

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Monday February 11, 2008

Calm Bobby goes to a cockfighting ring. “Honestly, after the initial shock subsided, I was happy as hell to be there. This was a covert and illegal operation, probably the dumbest thing I had ever done. But I admired the culture around it, the energy in the room, all the men still trying to hold on to their old lives in Cuba or Mexico or Haiti.”

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Thursday January 31, 2008

KITTY!

Come on, she’s CUTE!! This kitty made it half way across the country recently after being packed in a suitcase accidentally and checked into luggage on a plane leaving out of Ft. Lauderdale Airport. Then the wrong person got the luggage! Anyway, she’s fine.

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Monday January 28, 2008

“I mean we’re on land and we don’t take it seriously how insane it is out there. You’re at the beach throwing a ball around laughing in the sand and out beneath the waves there is this slaughterhouse, this horror movie. Shark week forever. It’s amazing the ocean doesn’t just run blood all the time.”

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Thursday November 15, 2007

Why Did Pancho Have To Die?

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Wednesday September 5, 2007

Mexican bromeliad weevil This little guy, the Mexican bromeliad weevil, has been plowing through the air-plant population of the Everglades and residential neighborhoods. Well, now scientists have discovered species of fly in the Honduras that feeds on these particular weevils, and are releasing these flies here to kill off the population. Really interesting glimpses into the local habitat here.

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Thursday August 9, 2007

How to survive a shark attack

“Shark’s teeth face inward, so when a shark doesn’t let go or wiggles its head and the person tries to pull away from the shark, that tissue just gets ripped right out. There are not that many predators under the water that could inflict a bite this size, this extensive.” — Dr. Randy Miller, who performed surgery on a lady who got bitten by a shark on Tuesday.

OK, this happened in the keys, and for whatever reason attacks are much more common there and on the west coast of Florida then on our nice beaches. I direct you to Camilo’s guide to sharks and the nerve-calming links at this post. We can also get some to-the-rescue from a pair of WikiHow articles: Prevent a shark attack and Survive a shark attack. (Short version: punch it in the eyes and gills.) Swim easy.

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Tuesday August 7, 2007

Celeste Fraser Delgado profiles Mark Buckley and his pet rooster Mr. Clucky. Mr. Clucky has previously been featured in the New Times, has his own MySpace page, and has been photographed by Miami Fever. That’s quite the celebrity cock.

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Yikes!: Gus and Michelle bought themselves a kayak, and on their maiden voyage were attacked startled by a 7-food crocodile. A pants-browning experience.

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Tuesday July 31, 2007

“It appears that males seek females in the spring by following scent trails, so park biologists, along with other scientists, are testing whether females — with radio transmitters inserted into their body cavities — can serve as ‘Judas snakes,’ a living lure for mate-seeking males.” — The New York Times on fighting the growing Python infestation in the Everglades.

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Monday July 30, 2007

Seagulls. And this is at 22mm, so I was really up on those fuckers.

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Tuesday July 24, 2007

More on the cockfighting trial: “The website’s backers defend it as an exploration of cultural traditions . . . the argument over cockfighting’s cruelty [has expanded] into one that involves the First Amendment and, its defenders say, cockfighting’s cultural significance in other countries.”

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Monday July 16, 2007

The odd case of Tough Sports Live, a locally based website that broadcasts cockfights from Puerto Rico (where they’re legal) on the internet. David Oscar Markus of the Southern District of Florida Blog is defending the site in court. The Herald’s coverage of the case links to the site, which Bob Norman points out is unusual, and may be a sign of some shifting realities in how the newspaper deals with the internet.

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Thursday July 12, 2007

“Memo to the U.S. Department of Agriculture: You have better things to do with our tax dollars than harass Key West Hemingway House owners over the ubiquitous — and welcome — presence of 47 six-toed cats.” (Just added a Herald RSS feed to my collection: Editorials.)

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Wednesday June 27, 2007

Yes, it’s a grasshopper. But really it’s a caption contest, isn’t it?

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Monday June 18, 2007

mosquito Seems like forever since you’ve seen a mosquito? Here’s why: Since mosquitoes lay their eggs in water, their populations drop during drought. The bad news: the eggs don’t die — they just accumulate, and wait for the water to come back, which in case you haven’t noticed, it has. Please to be expecting a major spike in the mosquito population, and mosquito-related illness. Yikes!

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Wednesday May 23, 2007

gigant beetle

Giant Harlequin Beetle found on cargo ship. A few things about this. I understand that there’s a real threat if these insects establish a foothold here — it turns out they burrow into mango trees, killing them — but mainly it’s just sort of cool that a giant beetle is on the news. Also, why does it look like they sentenced him to death by hanging?

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Sunday February 18, 2007

Great Cormorant

A Great Cormorant. Obviously not a very shy one.

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Wednesday January 17, 2007

Hey, what is it with the animal crossing road signs?

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Tuesday January 16, 2007

Fla panther crossing

Florida Panthers now number about 70. They cover about 5% of their original habitat. And eleven were killed last year, the most ever. (image: dotpolka)

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Tuesday December 26, 2006

In Miami-Dade it’s illegal to sell a dog or cat without a microchip implanted in it. Not to get all “our children are next” on you, but doesn’t this seem a little fucked up? I understand the motivation, but . . . ok, what if you have, say, religious objections (mark of the beast and all)? Or what if you think it’s just weird to have a microchip implanted in your pet?

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Wednesday October 11, 2006

10,000 Killer Bees found in ceiling of Miami apartment. Is this for real? It’s an Orlando station.

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Wednesday August 2, 2006

The Hemingway House in Key West has 50+ cats, descendant from EH’s 6-toed pet. The USDA is claiming they need an animal exhibititor license.

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Tuesday May 23, 2006

The City of Miami Shores Springs is sending out a flier which, among other Bird-Flu releated stuff, threatens a $50 fine for feeding “wild” birds.

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Thursday May 18, 2006

How about some tits and ass before scoring? Great, let's eat at Mangoes.

Manola BBB hit it out of the park with this one. I guess a few weeks traveling around Spain is a good thing…

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Tuesday May 16, 2006

The thing about the alligators

sign: We Sell Smoked Alligator Original or Hot
Image by Frances Nash

Now don’t get any ideas – this isn’t going to be one of those we’ve been eating them for decades, it’s a wonder they haven’t started eating us sooner type of things. But what’s really going on with all these alligator attacks? Look. Gators have brains the size of a pea. They’re running on some ancient-ass instinctual behavior, and they’re designed to live in the swamp, not in a lake by some dumb UDB-pushing cookie-cutter development (actually, human beings aren’t designed to live like that, either, but I don’t want to digress). What’s more, they’re cold blooded, kind of like a solar panel – the warmer it is, the more energy they have to move around, and the more they have to eat.

But of course the alligators aren’t the problem – the problem is people. Remember the guy from Grizzly Man? He thought he was going to be friends with bears, and ended up getting his brain snacked on by a grizzly while his girlfriend watched. Well, that’s the same thing that’s happening for our whole species with the alligators. The solution is simple: stay the hell away from the gators, and especially don’t feed them. (When gators get used to being around people (and esp. if they associate us with food), the possibility of taking a bite out of our ass becomes to look pretty attractive to a hungry one.)

The problem with this approach is that everyone has to do it for it to work. Good luck there. Also, all the alligators that have already gotten used to people are not going to un-learn shit. So my alternate suggestion is to watch your ass. Forget the zig-zag running thing – it’s a myth (alligators don’t chase people). The key is to just stay the hell away from them. If you’re attacked, pound the crap out of their snout and eyes. Yikes. All that and more in this fun video:

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Wednesday April 12, 2006

Giant sloth found in Everglades

Come to daddy!

While digging around in the Everglades, working on a filter marsh, builders came across a 2-foot jaw bone.

The bone belonged to a Giant Sloth, the sort of which regularly roamed Florida about 12,000 years ago. Now, this may not be anything too far from the ordinary, but I’d say it’s pretty damn cool. This thing was the size of an elephant – the biggest mammal ever to have walked the earth. It was one of the animals that lived in North America when humans first spread across the continent, along with saber-tooth tigers, mastodons, and whatnot. Somehow, these bones survived in the everglades muck all these thousands of years.

Researchers from the University of Florida will poke around the site a little more before it gets covered with water for the filter marsh thing (part of the much delayed, $7.8 billion Everglades Restoration Project, natch). Whatever other animal parts there may be will stay there.

For extra credit, find the site on Google Maps. Keep in mind that the site is in the Southeastern part of Hendry County, and it’s 2,000 acres, probably accessible by a road of some sort . . . go to it!

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Friday July 1, 2005

The Critical Miami Guide to Sharks

[contributed by Camilo Santana]

Sharks are nearly blind, but they can make out shapes. When they look up and see a surfer with their appendages hanging out over the sides, it looks just like a seal, their favourite food. So they attack by mistake — literally.

The only real danger is that a shark can enter into a frenzy — they go berserk and eat anything, including other sharks, even their own tails. The way to trigger a frenzy? With blood. A shark can smell a single drop of blood a quarter mile away. So you never wanna be in the water with a chick who doesn’t know her period is on – ahem, 14-yr old girl.

(It’s an ugly probability but one that can’t be ruled out simply because we like to avoid that topic of conversation. Lets see FOX handle that angle.)

Oh, and about the second attack? Knee deep in a sandbar 200 yards out. Umm . . . he was fishing (sounds of distressed fish flapping in the water), and I’d gather them fish bleed when hooked and they weren’t using live bait . . . or perhaps they were LOL?

If I go out into the Cali mountains (they’re five miles to the East here) and start dragging a whimpering rabbit behind me while crouched with fish oil smeared all over my skin I think the chances of me falling prey to a vicious mountain lion attack are pretty high. These people need to practice basic safety.

And for the record, I’ve been in the waters of South Beach (back in ’87 or so) within 10 yards of two rather large sharks. I removed myself from the ocean as fast as I could without splashing. It wasn’t that big of a deal. You do get plenty of warning with sharks.

[Previously: Easy there, Little Shark]

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Monday June 27, 2005

Easy there, Little Shark

bull shark

The whole world is talking about the girl killed by a shark off the coast of Florida Saturday. Great. Nobody’s going in the water for the next three months for fear of death. As a public service, we would like to remind you that hearing these reports creates a disproportionate perception of danger. The fact is that shark attacks are super-rare. More people are killed every year by pigs than by sharks. But what the hell. Stay away from the water if you must. More surfing room for us.

update: Camilo Santana chimes in with the numbers. (Thanks Camilo!) Kitties are oddly absent from the list; Sophie has already killed a few unsuspecting visitors.

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