It’s a jungle out there! 8 wildest Florida animal stories of 2021

Animals

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Outside of being known for wild “Florida Man” headlines, the Sunshine State is also great for animal stories.

From the wild alligators that often come “knocking” on doors to the rescued animals at Tampa Bay’s various aquariums and facilities, it certainly is wild out there!

We’ve compiled a list of eight awesome animal stories from 2021 that features gators, rescues and so much more.

Did we miss your favorite Florida animal story or video from this year? Let us know by emailing online@wfla.com!

1. Oddly-pigmented dolphin spotted in Gulf, Clearwater Marine Aquarium not calling it albino

Date: April 27

A uniquely-pigmented young bottlenose dolphin was spotted in the Gulf of Mexico in April and was monitored by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

While many called the baby “albino,” those at CMA did not refer to the animal as such without further photographic research. CMA monitors all dolphins in their area as part of its “Dorsal Fin ID” program.

The pale dolphin was identified as a calf nicknamed “Cherub” that was less than a year old at the time, the third known calf of a dolphin called “Guardian” who has been studied by the aquarium since 2015.

The young dolphin is missing a fin and the aquarium described the calf as “hypopigmented,” as it has some coloring and the color of its eyes are normal, not red, a common sign in albinism.

2. Well-traveled manatee ‘Chessie’ back in wild, being tracked by Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Date: May 18

“Chessie,” the well-traveled manatee, was released back into the wild in May and is being tracked by researchers from the Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute.

Chessie has been spotted as far north as Rhode Island, first being seen in the Chesapeake Bay in 1994, a highly-unusual place for a manatee to be. The male manatee is estimated to be around 35 years old and has a scar pattern that makes him distinguishable among other manatees.

The mammal had gone through previous rescues, but was once again rescued during the 2020-2021 cold spell during what is known as a “Unusual Mortality Event”(or “UME”) on the east coast of Florida. He was found emaciated and swimming sideways, in need of rescue.

He was released in May north of Palm Beach.

Chessie’s movements can be tracked by the general public by going online to CMA’s website.

3. Are Tampa Bay shark populations indicators of tropical weather?

Date: June 1

Some species of sharks and their locations could be an indicator of whether tropical weather is about to strike in your area, according to new research that supports previous research conducted by Mote Marine Laboratory.

Mote’s research from summer 2001 used a series of underwater receivers that tracked the positions of 41 young blacktip sharks fitted with transmitters ahead of Tropical Storm Gabrielle in a nursery area of Terra Ceia Bay. Doctor Bob Hueter, a retired shark researcher with Mote Marine Laboratory and current OSEARCH employee, was involved.

“We were able to track them as they responded to the hurricane before it even got here – as they left and then rode out the hurricane outside and then came back in,” Dr. Hueter said of the research.

He said sharks in shallow environments, such as in lower Tampa Bay, tend to move in to deeper waters when a storm brews.

4. MUST SEE: Gator stumbles into chair, walks up to front door of Manatee Co. home

Date: June 14

A doorbell camera caught a scaly nighttime visitor walking up to a Parrish home back in June.

Steve Farkas said at around 4:30 a.m., an alligator came up to his front door and lingered for a while. The gator then left and went off to the side yard but soon returned, once again getting right up to Farkas’ front door.

“Everyone has a habit of opening up their front door garage and letting their dogs out, so now we actually posted to our community Facebook page just to let folks know,” he said.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, alligators typically get more active during the spring and summer months as the heat speeds up their metabolism and forces them to look for food.

5. Meet Stanley: Baby giraffe born at Busch Gardens as Tampa Bay Lightning win Stanley Cup Championship

Date: July 14

The Tampa Bay Lightning brought home the Stanley Cup for the second year in a row in 2021, and another Tampa staple welcomed another Stanley on the very same night.

Stanley the giraffe was born to first-time mom Angel at Busch Gardens. He spent time bonding with her behind-the-scenes before the pair moved back out to join the herd on the theme park’s 65-acre Serengeti Plain.

6. Seahorse rescued by good Samaritan gives birth at Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Date: July 28

A seahorse that was rescued by a good Samaritan and brought to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium gave birth to a plethora of babies at the end of July.

The male seahorse was found floating in the surf and a veterinarian confirmed the animal had “an over-inflated swim bladder and released the trapped air,” according to the aquarium.

A few days after, while under observation from veterinarians, the seahorse gave birth… in the hundreds!

The father and his babies were monitored by staff, though the father continued to show issues with buoyancy, which would impact his ability to survive in the wild and be listed as “non-releasable” by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

7. Classical enrichment! Orangutans, rhinos treated to songs at ZooTampa

Date: Aug. 10

The family of orangutans and the rhinos at ZooTampa were treated to classical music enrichment over the summer.

Classical pianist Cesar Maeda treated the animals to his tunes. Orangutan “Goyang” even received a belated “happy birthday,” with the help of guests, according to the zoo.

8. Toddler spots, mistakes 6-foot alligator as ‘turtle’ in sewer outside of Florida restaurant

Date: Nov. 11

Joe Brenner was out with his 2-year-old son when the toddler spotted what he thought was a “turtle.” It actually turned out to be an alligator in a sewer outside a Jacksonville restaurant.

In a video shared with WFLA, Brenner in the video says, “Yo, look at this in the sewer outside of Cantina. There is a ginormous alligator and it is alive as hell.” His son can also be heard saying, “Hello Mr. Alligator!”

“My 2-year-old son looked down into the sewer outside the restaurant and said ‘turtle’ – not quite,” Brenner told WFLA.

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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