Michael Vendemia caught a piranha while crabbing...


October 08, 1992

OK, SO Michael Vendemia caught a piranha while crabbing off his back-yard dock in Charles County.

The 8 1/2 -inch South American fish, which has sharp teeth and an ugly habit of using them, had taken up residence in Mill Creek, a Patuxent River tributary. Another piranha was found in the same creek about a year ago. Biologists suspect the fish had been raised as pets before being tossed out on their own.

But as exotic-animals-in-unusual-places stories go, we think we can top this one.

At "Pesky Critters Wildlife Control" outside Miami, the phones have been ringing off the hook since Hurricane Andrew turned thousands of rare animals loose to roam the countryside.

Todd Hardwick, owner of the private wildlife control business, says most of the calls have been about the hundreds of monkeys that have shown up in backyards and along neighborhood streets. Some have even taken to looting food from empty homes. Most of these small primates were from private breeding farms, research facilities and the Monkey Jungle amusement park, all of which were leveled in the storm.

But monkeys aren't the only problem. Mr. Hardwick has gotten calls about escaped pythons, hundreds of parrots, a few rare deer imported from China and two panthers that were privately owned.

If anyone thinks a couple of piranhas in Mill Creek is a problem, how about panthers prowling the streets?

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