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Tom Germond
Standing his ground against wildlife
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Tampa Bay Newspapers’ animal identification committee voted 3-0 to confirm that the reptile in this picture is an alligator.
I hope I don’t dream that I fed a downy woodpecker to a crocodile in the Largo Nature Preserve.

Critters have been on my mind lately. And when I think about critters too much, I tend to have wild dreams about them – from dust mites to Colombian tegus.

A couple of Saturdays ago, I heard a large banging on the side of the roof on my building. The uninvited guest was a downy woodpecker, which ignored me as I began shooting pictures of it. Then I realized that the little bugger had a masonry drill bit for a beak and was creating a cavern in the roof.

I don’t think our condo board authorized this work.

“Keep it up and you’re going to be a dead downy,” I said to the bird, putting down my camera.

I guess the bird got tired of all the attention it was getting – and probably was offended at the names it was being called – because I haven’t seen it since last weekend.

I asked our office bug control guy what was the best way to get rid of a woodpecker. One of his suggestions was to put a rubber snake on the roof.

Ahhhh – the ol’ rubber snake remedy.

Good idea. When I was kid I had a rubber snake, which usually rested on the top of my chest of drawers in my bedroom. One day the housekeeper, Irene, came in and saw the snake. Irene shrieked and fled the room. Hearing Irene’s blood-curdling scream was enough to make me flee the room. Wonder what she’d do if she saw a real snake, or something bigger, such as a gator.

Speaking of which, with fears of a woodpecker peering out of a hole in my roof fresh on my mind, I listened to voicemail from a reader who said that the photographer erred in identifying the subject of a photo as an alligator in a recent edition of our newspapers.

“That’s a crocodile, dude. And you need to let authorities know about it because they are a whole lot more aggressive then alligators are. Look at your picture … learn your gators … and crocs,” the reader said.

Call the authorities? Good idea – to ask them to get rid of the damn woodpecker on my roof. Crocodile in the Largo Nature Preserve? There’s a better chance of seeing a monkey there.

Guess it’s possible a crocodile could call the preserve home, since an 11-footer was found in Lake Tarpon a year ago. But a crocodile would have to be adept at charting a course to the preserve from there or anywhere else without ending up as road kill – unless it befriended a coyote that showed it the way.

Somebody’s pet? A 10-foot python was found dead in the preserve in 2009. I wonder what Irene would think of that?

Dozens of reports have been made throughout Florida in the past two decades about people encountering, harboring or being attacked by exotic animals, such as tegus, boas, monitors, piranhas and zebra-donkey hybrids. So I don’t ignore most calls from readers about wildlife, including a report of a Sasquatch and an Elvis sighting.

We referred the reptile matter to the Tampa Bay Newspapers’ animal identification committee, which consists of three editors. Meeting on July 22, we discussed for about a minute whether said reptile was an alligator, crocodile, tegus or just a decoy.

“All in favor of it being an alligator say aye,” I said.

Motion passed 3-0.

It’s an alligator, dude, unless a wildlife expert says otherwise. Haven’t heard back from state yet, but I’d be surprised if we and our photographer were in error.

The animal identification committee was no help with my woodpecker problem. You should also know that I really have no intention of killing it because that would be a violation of the Migratory Bird Act and probably a dozen other laws, treaties, codes of ethics, the Ten Commandments and what not. However, if I did resort to violence, I think I could make a compelling argument that I’d be covered by the Stand Your Ground law.

Where’s Irene when I need her? She could scare anything to death.

One shriek from her and it’s bye bye birdie.

Tom Germond is executive editor of Tampa Bay Newspapers. Email him at
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