Wild animal attacks increasing in Florida

Posted by Rachel Leigh - email

MIAMI (WFLX) - Wild animal attacks on people in Florida are on the rise, and the usual suspects are increasingly unusual.

"We managed to pull it out of the weeds and take it into custody," said Lt. Lisa Wood, venom response team.

Woods is desribing a 13-foot-long python found at a Miami nursery.

In Tampa, a family of attackers all wore masks. "I'm at my neighbor's house, and she was attacked by some raccoons. She's cut very badly," said a witness.

The raccoons made their getaway after injuring an elderly woman. "You used to be able to let the children just play in the backyard," said Kristi Turner. "I just don't feel safe doing that anymore."

Seven-year-old Madison Wells would agree. She has 23 stitches in her foot courtesy of an iguana. "I thought, I was going to be dead. It wasn't fun."

What's causing all these wild animals to attack?

"First of all, if you run into anything in the wild, leave it alone," said Miami Metrozoo's Ron Magill.

The problem, Magill says, is animals and humans are colliding more because of the continuing loss of wildlife habitat. On top of that, the climate is perfect for exotic species that shouldn't be here at all.

Florida has become the Ellis Island of exotic species. "Many people keep them as pets, and they either escape or they are released, and then they start to thrive."

Like the very agressive Buffo toad that excretes a poison that can kill a dog.

And iguanas are everywhere -- sunning in a tree, hanging out in the grass near a canal -- and they don't scare easy.

With no way to eradicate flourishing nuisance species, wildlife experts say, confrontations are only going to increase, and, in a decade or two, Florida might be a zoo on the loose.