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Snake Creature of Our Very Own; Uglier Side of Giant Anteaters

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Snake Creature of Our Very Own; Uglier Side of Giant Anteaters

By JAY MANN | Jul 30, 2014
Photo by: Fisherman's Headquarters

IT’S REAL, I TELL YOU! IT’S REAL:You might have heard about a huge, somewhat greenish-hued snake seen and re-seen in New Jersey’s Lake Hopatcong. Size estimates ranged from six feet to infinity.

I, like many astute folks, refuse to discount the exciting possibility of a super snake free-ranging in NJ. I base my belief on the growing cadre of people owning exotic pet snakes. Boas, anacondas and pythons are always huge on the must-have list of habituated herpers.

Herper is a shortened form of the word herpetologist – sans the “tologist” part, which demands actual schooling. Yuck. But even using the shortened form of herpetologist can’t prevent a herper’s pet snakes from sprouting to Ph.d sizes.

Most newbies to snake owning quickly discover many once-cuddly species grow and grow and grow, inconsiderately so. “Feed me, Seymour. Did ya hear me, boy? I distinctly remember saying, ‘Feed me.’” When a pet snake requires buying full-grown cattle to keep it fed, many an outsized owner will resort to an unceremonious release – any damn place they can find.

Having long been a herpist with a scaly thumb – the equivalent of a gardener’s green thumb – I can assure that pet snakes all but chuckle at their “estimated maximum sizes,” as written in textbooks. The growth potential for beloved and pampered, hand-fed, home snakes quickly busts through any natural growth ceiling – a ceiling through which even an overgrown snake can escape with its hands tied behind its back, so to speak.

A perfect example of a homegrown snake species growing overly large is the highly popular boa constrictor. Scientifically alleged to max out at maybe six feet in length, when kept in large enough cages they can achieve Katy-bar-the-door sizes – barred doors through which they’ll still easily escape.

If you sense I’m implying that snakes are legless Houdinis, I have firsthand knowledge that no other creatures climb aboard the midnight express so easily. I most recall Lulu. Lulu was the very real name of a preposterously big-ass boa that went missing in Central Florida while I was once wintering down there.

Lulu’s owner awoke one morning, all, “Now, where the hell is …? Helen, wake up. Have you seen Lulu?”

“Oh, wait, let me check. Maybe your stupid snake is snuggled up in bed with me.”

“Is she?”

“You’re an idiot!”

Lulu was, in fact, on an express run to freedom, big-sky freedom.

When I was called in to find Lulu, I figured, “How hard can it be to find an overlong, utterly obese boa that hadn’t been out on her own since birth?” Well, after a day’s worth of Lulu hunting, I had found damn near every species of snake known to North America – and a couple previously unknown species, which I probably could have scientifically named after myself. There is some serious snake-age in Florida. But, lo, no Lulu. I finally gave up but not before philosophizing with the owner on how his snake now had the wide-open terrain between west Cocoa and Orlando as her new “cage” – maybe a million or two acres.

Escape is obviously one way that even well behaved pet snakes become free-roaming, feral snakes – and eventually Tarzan-grade (Lake Hopatcong?) snakes. But the Sunshine State is now crawling with a burgeoning population of massive Burmese pythons from another escape scenario, namely, hurricane flooding that freed assorted snakes from destroyed pet stores.

The loosed and flourishing southeast U.S. pythons are another living example of the overgrowth potential of snakes on the lam. Without natural enemies, they’re free to down more prey than legally allowed by nature.

To date, the largest captured Floridian python is an awesome 18-foot, 8-incher, taken near Miami by some vacationing college kids. Hey, would you rather have your kids hunting pythons or binge drinking during Spring Break and ending up, S-faced drunk, on some highly rated, reality cop show? Thus your bumper sticker: “My Kids Prefer Pythons.”

And this kinda steers us back to Jersey and the now suddenly suspect Lake Hopatcong python/boa/anaconda.

Why suspect? The NJDEP recently tried its damnedest to trap the oft-seen (or not) behemoth slitherer. Absolutely nothing came to light. In a press release, the DEP even tried pouring cold water on the whole mega-snake-in-lake notion, hell-bent on reducing all sightings to mere hysteria, if not urban legendness.

But not so fast, my easily foiled, state-level, non-snake-finders. Even a snake the length of ten expandable DAP garden hoses (and even longer if you pay additional postage and handling), can make itself hopelessly unfindable if it so chooses. As is likely the case with (and I shall now name), The Great Somewhat Green-Hued Super Snake Creature of New Jersey.

If The Great Somewhat Green-Hued Super Snake Creature of N.J. has opted to vacate the trap-happy Lake Hopatcong, it can furtively and effortlessly hang out within the state’s snaking underground sewer systems. Down there, it can feed and fatten off cinema-grade sewer alligators and llama-sized rats.

Now, ponder this: Where do many of the state’s sewer pipes eventually empty out? That’s right, they end up in the ocean, including pipes located directly off Surf City. Face it, even as we speak, The Great Somewhat Green-Hued Super Snake Creature of New Jersey could be very close at hand – computing the time it would take it to crawl down here, rest stops and llama-rat feedings factored in.

Come on, work with me here! I really need a nearby mystical beast. I can’t afford Loch Nessing or Sasquatching. Admittedly, I could easily zip down to look for Mothman in West Virginia but just my luck the minute I get there the ugly-lookin’, devilish, hillbilly ogre would swoop down and fly off with me – right in front of a cheering busload of Southern revivalists, all, “We saw Mothman! We saw Mothman!”

“Ezekiel, wasn’t it spiritually uplifting the way that little bearded man was screamin’ for salvation from the heavens above as he was being flown off in the talons of Mothman?”

“Actually, Kaleb, I distinctly heard him yellin’, ‘Save me, Great Somewhat Green-Hued Super Snake Creature of New Jersey!’”

“No way! I swear, those Northern bastards better not be movin’ in on my uncle’s snake worshippin’ business.”

So, in lieu of my taking a Moth Mann weekend, I’m instead encouraging all locals to be on the lookout for The Great Somewhat Green-Hued Super Snake Creature of New Jersey. Keep an especially close eye on those sewer grates as you’re walking to the beach. I can’t wait until Holgate reopens. If I was The Great Somewhat Green-Hued Super Snake Creature of New Jersey, I’d hang out there.

GIANT ABUSE OF ANTEATERS: In Brazil, deforestation is forcing giant anteaters out of the jungle and into people places – where they’ve taken to killing folks. But before you get all anti-anteater, you might want to digest the whole less-than-homicidal story.

To be sure, anteaters are a natural must to avoid. Be it the beast’s potentially deadly, surgically sharp claws or the insufferable ridicule one will suffer over being ravaged by a frickin’ anteater, you can’t go hand-to-hand with these thought-gentle jungle denizen – now turned gangstas.

Hell, anteaters are classed with sloths, meaning you surely have a fighting chance of avoiding them – providing they don’t coax you in with their ruse about having access to genuine gold Rolexes – at half price! Hey, I told ya these anteaters are rapidly becoming urbanized. And I’m bettin’ they have to pay the exact same price for Rolexes that every other displaced jungle animal has to pay.

So what sorta of numbnuts get sliced and diced – to death – by anteaters? Uh, numbnut numbnuts?

If it seems I’m being a tad insensitive to the numerous folks who have been anteatered into bits, it’s simply because, in all the cases, it has been hunters. These are hunters now preying upon disoriented animals being driven to distraction – and into crosshairs – by the clear-cutting of their forests. In case you weren’t aware, the cruel cutting is being done to serve cattle farmers, who are hired to feed the voracious needs of US companies, like McDonald’s. A sort of Mac-attack on nature.

As I researched the plight of the giant anteater, it became thoroughly saddening what they’re going through. It was proportionately amazing to find these way-laidback mammals can instantly slice a human into one-pound increments. The thing is an anteater only goes Jack the Ripper when hopelessly cornered and freaked to hell and back.

But back to the sad part. These rapidly vanishing creatures are routinely killed in Venezuela, just so their claws can be sold to passing tourists – that is, any tourists who haven’t been killed by rebels or haven’t succumbed after drinking the water there. OK, that was an unnecessary cut at a decent nation, as I saw when there. But I’m always down on any society that shuns Appendix II by CITES, banning the selling of endangered wildlife parts.

Worst yet, in Bolivia, they actually hunt giant anteaters – for sport! I kid you not. Imagine the awe-inspiring skill level it must take to blast a bushy, seven-foot-long fur ball, hosting a dizzying speed of maybe 20 feet per hour – when fleeing.

Can’t you just picture a Bolivian hunting guide, with his hand on the shoulder of a crouching be-rifled customer, saying, “Wait for it. Wait for it,” as sweat pours down the hunter’s face. “Not just yet. Breathe natural. Steady. Fire! … Uh, all right, then. Let’s just chamber another bullet and we’ll try again. Steady. Fire! OK, that last shot was pretty damn close. How about we move up a little closer. We’ll still be a solid 10 feet away from it.”

Oh, please get close enough for the anteater to slash huge “Zs” across both their faces. Let’s see ’em live that one down.

Help protect the Giant Anteater and its dwindling habitat. Donate to the World Land Trust, worldlandtrust.org.

And, yes, they are sending me my very own baby anteater for hyping the effort. The bugger won’t have any trouble finding ants here on LBI, but that’s a bugged-out story for another rant.

THE WICKED HEAD SOUTH: On Aug. 17, NatGeo will be launching the third season of its hugely popular series, “Wicked Tuna.”

When I saw the show’s first episode in April of 2012, I fileted it. I graciously gave it three episodes – not three seasons – before it would be run off the air by public outcries, if not viewer boredom. And that’s why I’ve been permanently removed from the Nielsen Polls calling list.

Hey, what can I say? This generally goofy-ass program – and its short-tempered, sleep-deprived, oft mean-spirited stars – has hook, line and sinkered viewing audiences, worldwide. It’s either a fairly decent watch or folks, who found themselves reduced to watching the Kardashians, now prefer flapping tuna over the flapping, enhanced lips of Kris and Kim. No, I don’t watch the Kardashians! I, uh, just happened to have read those names somewhere, in passing. And what’s up with Bruce Jenner’s face morphings? The man looks like he needs way more tuna in his diet.

But enough Kardashians and back to NatGeo’s Wickedashians.

Early on, “Wicked Tuna” got the goats of almost as many folks as it mesmerized. No sooner had the blue tuna been packed out than PETA and numerous ocean watch groups tried to send the show packing. There’s no overlooking the savagery in the process of fighting, harpooning, tail tying, gaffing and gutting these massive tuna. However, there are those who might point out that those same tuna are far from kindhearted when tearing apart forage fish and countless sea creatures. How do you think those tuna got so big? Baitfish have feelings and families, too, you know.

One of the things that prevents easy-chaired viewers from being overly judgmental about professional tuna fishing is the high loss rate of hooked fish, right there on-air. Face it, if you’re siding with the tuna, you’re in the driver’s seat during most hookups.

There’s also the other viewing involvement matter of wanting to vicariously out-fish the numbnuts aboard Tuna.com.

Even for folks backing the fishes, there’s a viewing bonus on hearing what a single landed tuna is worth back at the docks – and how entire families benefit from big paydays at the scales. In fact, those per-pound payments are where I really side with tuna fishing in America.

An overlooked maxim within the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, which strictly controls fishing in the U.S., demands all commercially harvested fish have their maximum values realized. Any and all seafood is treasurable, and should rock the registers. No other fish species gets more bang for the buck than America’s relatively few harvested tuna. We also get a bit even with the Asians, who are making a bloody mint off of us via the current imbalance of trade. Yes, there is high politics even in sashimi.

Despite “Wicked Tuna” being a show about commercial fishing, its manly rod-and-reel appeal is clear. The sportsmanesque hook-and-line aspect of catching tuna offers a real feel for closely related recreational fishing, especially the part about losing huge fish at every turn.

Oddly, the show’s producers seemingly disregard the many times when undersized fish are hooked and fought – to be quickly cut loose, costing fuel and time. The undersizedness factor adds even a greater sense of how many wickedly un-good things can happen when you do tuna for a living.

This year’s version of “Wicked Tuna” will have a really cool twist. A bunch of the NE townies will be taking their accents and attitudes down to the land of rednecks and Hatteras lows. Yep, some of the Wickeders will be bluefinning off North Carolina, competing with those still fishing the northern sector.

That move should make for some odd radio chatter between the Gloucesters and the Tar Heelers. “Whatcha mean y’all are hereabouts lookin’ for wicked tuna? This here’s the Bible belt, boy. Don’t you be blasphemin’ around here, ya hear? Weez gonna be watchin’ you one good … damn Yankees.”

Oh, this should be fun.

RUNDOWN: Monster southern and rough-tail stingrays are the prowl along the beach line. Some of these tail-swingers are absolute eye-openers, measuring in with seven-foot wingspans. I have pics (see jaymanntoday.ning.com) of three separate mega-rays, pulled in through the surf. One was bitten by a small shark on the way in.

You might want to check with shops on how to best fight monster rays. Also, check YouTube videos or FB on either Apex Predators or AJ Rotondella.

I’ll clue you in that landing a royally large ray involves whatever it is that greatly exceeds patience and endurance, i.e. something far beyond my ADD personality.

The burying ability of a stingray is instantaneous – and unforgiving. While there is always some degree of bottom suction involved with a bottom-imbedded ray, the sheer weight of the sand it flips atop its body can double its weight. Once you finally bust a big ray out of the bottom, it’ll take it about two seconds to achieve a brutal reburial. Good luck. I’ll check back with ya in, say, four hours.

I won’t get deeply into the edibility of rays except to say there has been a remarkable push to make cownose rays something of a blue-plate special, especially down in the Chesapeake Nation.

There are YouTube videos on “cleaning stingrays.” I’ve done it and it’s a bit of a bitch to carve around their in-wing cartilages.

I have eaten cownose rays a couple times; never any other species. I’ll be generous by saying they lack an innate delectability. However, when doused with a heavy downpour of spices and/or after marinating until the cownoses come home, the meat is worthy of a barbecuing.

Myth buster: They do not make “scallops” out of stingray or skate wings. All you have to do is clean one to see the impossibility factor enter into it. Then, the taste could fool a soul.

See more SandPaper stories at http://thesandpaper.villagesoup.com/

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