Tag Archives: invasive species

The Vegetative State

It is a mystery of modern medical science as to how a person (me, for example) can do what amounts to almost nothing and still end up physically exhausted and mentally drained. 

Of course, I do work 8-9 hours a day, Monday through Friday.  “Work” for me, though, involves a lot of observing, communicating, and supervising.  (Q:  How many managers does it take to change a light bulb?  A:  Only one.  But it takes two employees–one to hold the ladder and the other to actually change the bulb.)  On Friday, that 8-9 hours turned into 12, which turned out to be my limit–or slightly beyond it. 

On Saturday morning, I did the NY Times crossword puzzle online with Fakesister, as usual, and that was the last hurrah for my brain for the day.  I spent the rest of the day unapologetically vegetating.  And what does it take to truly vegetate?  Television, of course. 

First, I watched a Tarzan movie.  “Tarzan’s Hidden Jungle” with Gordon Scott as Tarzan.  The movie was made in 1955 and was one of only four with Scott as Tarzan.  I’ll never forget the first time I ever saw someone other than Johnny Weissmuller playing Tarzan.  I was shocked to the depth of my being.  It was at that point that my mother had to explain to me that Tarzan was not a real person, and that these were actors.  I already knew about Santa and the Easter Bunny, but this was something different.  This was total betrayal.  Having no choice, I finally adjusted to it, but I have forever remained loyal to Johnny Weissmuller.  If it isn’t him, it isn’t Tarzan.  Gordon Scott, by the way, manages to do all sorts of jungly ape-man things, like rescuing a damsel in distress from a raging river, without one hair on his 1950’s haircut ever being rearranged.  Tarzan with hairspray. 

I watched an episode of Rising: Rebuilding Ground Zero that I had actually seen before.  It focuses primarily on the the construction challenges, the design, and the architecture of the Memorial, but that’s inseparable from the emotional content of the project.  To give you one small example:  the two reflecting pools that will sit on the footprints of the two towers will have the names of the victims etched in bronze on plates around the edges of the pools.  One day, one of the construction supervisors is permitted to go to the plant where the etching work is taking place.  He is allowed to press the button which starts the etching machine, and then he watches as the machine engraves the name of his baby brother.  His brother was lost on 9/11 and his remains were never found.  Once the metal cools, he touches the letters and says “This is my brother now.”  As a result of watching this show, I am determined to one day go to NYC and see it.  (Spencercourt, when the time comes I will be calling on you for travel advice.)

Finally, I watched a couple of episodes of “The Invaders” on the National Geographic Wild channel, about invasive animal species.  One was about hippos in Columbia, which were part of Pablo Escobar’s menagerie.  What is it with these bad guys who like to keep collections of exotic animals?  Besides Escobar, Uday Hussein comes to mind.  In any case, what should another of these invasive animals be but my old friend, the nutria?  I never before realized how actually dangerous they are.  They carry diseases and parasites of all kinds, most seriously, tularemia and leptospirosis.  And not only that.  In Maryland, where they appear to have the most serious problem with them outside of Louisiana, Federal Wildlife officials are on a mission to eradicate them from the Delmarva Peninsula.  They use Labrador Retrievers to track them, but the dogs are fitted with special collars which cover their entire throats, because cornered nutria will go for the jugular with tooth and claw.  And to think I used to watch them swim in, and sometimes hang out on the banks of, Lake Ponchartrain.  Luckily my dog, who was always with me, was pretty incurious. 

This is a kind of snapshot of the kinds of things that interest me.  From Tarzan to 9/11 to nutria.  It’s no wonder I’m tired.

Fakename’s Animal Planet: Bufo Marinus

It’s been a while since we visited Fakename’s Animal Planet, which is populated by some of the more bizarre creatures on Planet Earth.  Recently a visitor from the UK commented on my post about Muscovy ducks, and re-reading that post, I realized that I had promised to discuss Bufo Marinus.  Its common names include Giant Toad, Cane Toad, and Marine Toad.  “Cane Toad” comes from its success at eating sugar cane beetles.  Native to Central and South America, it’s been introduced virtually everywhere sugar cane is grown.  This falls into the category of  “Be careful what you wish for”.  (See:  nutria; kudzu.)  They also eat birds, other frogs, rodents, and small children left unattended.  “Marine Toad” came from the mistaken idea that they live in water as well as on land.  In fact, besides drinking water, the only time they venture into it is to lay eggs–8,000 to 25, 000 at a time.  Wow!  Going into labor must be quite a bitch for the female Bufo.

So technically, “Giant Toad” is the most accurate of its common names.  To illustrate that accuracy, consider this photo for perspective: 


I first encountered this creature on the pages of the Palm Beach Post, which ran an article about Bufo no doubt as a public service to Florida newbies such as myself.  Be on the lookout, it said.  Because on top of their distinct unattractiveness and intimidating size, they are poisonous.  They can kill dogs.  Oh great, I said.  Not only do I have alligators in the pond behind my house, a family of rats living in my attic, and mosquitoes the size of Cessna 150’s, now I have to worry about giant poisonous toads?  Welcome to Florida, Fakename. 

As luck would have it, no more than a week later at around dusk, my two dogs erupted into a big racket which, translated, meant, “We’ve cornered something!”  “Cornered” was not exactly the right word.  There in the back yard, squarely and unflinchingly facing the two dogs, was a noble member of  the Bufo species.  I recognized it from its picture in the newspaper.  Um, “Shoo!” I said.  It either couldn’t hear me over the din the dogs were making, or it didn’t speak English.  In hindsight, I’m glad it didn’t run.  I mean hop.  Because then the dogs would surely have chased it, with possibly lethal results. 

I wasn’t about to touch it, since it’s the skin that is toxic.  They have glands which secrete a poison called Bufotoxin, one component of which is Bufotenin, which is hallucinogenic.  I mention this only in case you would like to engage in the practice of  toad licking.  So I came up with Plan B, which was first to get the dogs inside the house.  Then to encourage Bufo to move, with the aid of say, a broom.  I did not have to ask it twice.  Once the dogs were inside, in fact, it wasted no time in trying to hop its way out of Dodge.  I did have to open the back gate for it, since it was not quite yet tall enough to unlatch it on its own. 

You may be asking yourself, why didn’t Fakename kill it?  My reply is, with what?  No seriously, Fakename does a limited amount of killing.  Her killing is confined to very small univited creatures inside the house, like tiny spiders.  If you live outside and stay there, Fakename is perfectly happy to let you.  Plus toads, even poisonous ones, are one of the best pest control systems around.  I mean, I personally could not bring myself to eat a Cessna 150, but Bufos love them.