Florida can be a pretty weird place, and it's something of a holiday tradition for news organizations throughout the state to put together lists of the weirdest stories of the year. (Read our "Why South Florida Can't Have Nice Things" roundup from last year.)
We decided to go straight to the people on the front lines: WLRN-Miami Herald News anchors, producers, editors and reporters. Here are what they thought were the most bizarre Florida stories of 2013.
The Mosely Flag: The flag was hoisted by Governor William D. Moseley on March 3, 1845 when Florida became the 27th state. It never became an official state flag because of controversy about the motto "Let us alone".
The giant African land snail has competition in the "strange and destructive little invasive species" department. A report released last month by University of Texas scientists shows that "crazy ants" are "invading the southeastern United States and Texas" -- including Florida.
Humans aren't the only species facing an uncertain future in South Florida should current sea level rise predictions prove accurate. Migratory and resident shore birds also would feel the pinch of encroaching salt water, beach erosion, and shore line and habitat loss.
When examining current land modeling and other scientific data, in addition to physical evidence, "It becomes clear what a substantial threat sea level rise will be," said Julie Wraithmell, director of Wildlife Conservation, Florida, for the National Audubon Society.
Those wonderful cotton foot huggers which absorb our sweat and decorate our ankles, are taking the day off.
At least for those who observe it, May 8 is No Socks Day.
But living in South Florida should make you think twice:
1. Bugs We are always at the mercy of insects around us, and some of those insects bite. Two of them, the little fire ant and the red imported fire ant, are prevalent enough that the majority of South Floridians have probably suffered a painful sting if they have lived here for any real length of time.
Lionfish are the newest target of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation's (FWC) efforts to use social engagement to tackle the problem of exotic, invasives in the state. The FWC announced last week the launch of its "Lionfish Control Team" photo contest for the month of April.
On a recent Sunday morning, a group of hikers paused on a heavily canopied trail to observe a bird perched high atop a tree, its body silhouetted against the rising sun. A brief hush took hold as binoculars focused in on the back-lit bird, loudly churring its morning song. Bodies shifted for a better view, until: "Yep, great crested flycatcher!"
Fire ants are notorious Florida invasives, leaving a trail of painful welts and blisters in their wake. Those pesky exotic intruders also happen to be a serious threat to some of the state's most vulnerable endemic species. This includes the Florida grasshopper sparrow, which recently made the March/April cover of Audubon Magazine as "the most endangered bird in the continental United States."
Next time you go to the Everglades you'll have the option to pick up an anti-vulture kit.
The park is offering the kits so people can protect their cars against vultures during the winter months. The black vultures sometimes rip the rubber and vinyl parts--such as windshield wipers and sunroof seals--off of cars.
The end of the year is approaching and the news columns and web sites of a hungry nation are filling up with weird Florida stories, each supposedly an illustration of the character, lifestyle and unholy preoccupations of our strange, strange state.