I’ve lived in the South for almost three years now and you’d think I’d be used to the barrage of scary wildlife that’s simply part of the everyday here. I get it. We are sharing our neighborhoods with dinosaurs. Giant alligators are the norm in SC. When you’re walking past ponds and marshes or even on the golf course you have to be on guard just in case its mating season or the little dog you’re walking with looks like a tasty treat. And I understand there are 38 species of snakes here, five of them being poisonous – that could, at any moment, sneak out from under a bush or pile of leaves and bite you. Forget the ones you see slithering out in the open!
It’s not just the predators. There’s frogs, lizards and crazy looking fish that are dropped out of the mouths of birds in your backyard on some wildlife flight path (true story) that are part of your southern world. There’s also spiders the size of a human head and little ones that if bitten, can leave your skin turning black. And let’s not forget that million of cicadas hibernating or hiding or whatever- will be emerging soon to freak us all out.
Just when you think you’re fully apprised of all the creatures great and small you’ve got to be prepared for, you see a social media post of a fuzzy spiky thing and are warned “DO NOT PET OR TOUCH THIS!” The stinging caterpillar inching its way around that looks really cute and fuzzy will sting you like a bee.
Last year when Covid forced us all inside, it took me weeks to come to grips with the reality of mountain lions and bears roaming around in SC wondering where all the people were. In my head I was singing “lions and tigers and bears, oh my.” Still waiting to hear about the possibility of tigers in SC and I wouldn’t be surprised at this point to hear it.
It’s finally warming up in Charleston and I am really looking forward to going to the beach. I already know to be on the lookout for sea nettles, the hundreds of thousands of stinging jellyfish that love these waters, but after hearing on the news that I also need to stay away from hook-jawed biting clamworms that are swarming the beaches at the moment, I am left with my own mouth gaping open thinking “what next?”
The true southerners I know smirk, giggle or just shake their heads “yep” in response to my brining up the wildlife situation here. Last year when there was a shark attack on Folly Beach no one I talked to really batted an eye. “It is what it is” is a common response from my true southern friends. And “it” means – get used to it, it’s not going away.
What’s a transplant here to do? As a northern transplant to the sunniest, warmest and friendliest places I’ve ever lived, I guess grappling with the real dangers of wildlife on a daily basis is the price you pay for gorgeous weather, delicious food, friendly people and beautiful surroundings. It is what it is.