A Bill to Protect Skunk Apes

On October 13, 1977, House Bill 58, titled “An act relating to anthropoid or humanoid animals, prohibiting the taking, possessing, harming, or molesting thereof…,” passed through the House Criminal Justice Committee.

Sightings of apelike creatures were booming in the 1970s, particularly in South Florida. In response, Representative Hugh Paul Nuckolls of Fort Myers sponsored a bill to protect the Florida version of these mysterious creatures, the Skunk Ape. Nuckolls introduced the measure after a similar bill (HB 1664) failed to pass during the previous legislative session.

Representative Hugh Paul Nuckolls, Tallahassee, 1980

Representative Hugh Paul Nuckolls, Tallahassee, 1980

Unfortunately, House Bill 58, also known as the Hugh Paul Nuckolls Skunk Ape Act, died without passing and Skunk Apes remain without legislative protection in Florida.

"A Bill to Protect Skunk Apes..." (1977)

The Skunk Ape Act stimulated interesting conversation among the legislators who considered legal measures to protect Skunk Apes in Florida. Click on the thumbnails below to read a partial transcription of deliberations concerning House Bill 58.

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Sabal Palm Designated State Tree (June 11, 1953)

On June 11, 1953, the Florida legislature designated the Sabal Palm (Sabal palmetto) as the state tree of Florida. The Sabal Palm—also known as cabbage palm, cabbage palmetto, palmetto, and countless vernacular terms throughout the southern United States and the Caribbean—has provided food, shelter and inspiration to Floridians for thousands of years.

Cabbage palm (Sable palmetto) in Levy County, Florida

Cabbage palm (Sable palmetto) in Levy County, Florida

From: General Acts and Resolutions Adopted by the Legislature of Florida... (1953), 405-406.

From: General Acts and Resolutions Adopted by the Legislature of Florida... (1953), 405-406.

 

Florida Seminoles and Miccosukees, like indigenous Floridians before them, construct traditional housing using leaves and trunks from the Sabal Palm. These structures, known as “chickees” in the Mikasuki language, are an important symbol of modern Florida Indian culture.

James Billie’s chickee: Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation (1989)

James Billie’s chickee: Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation (1989)

 

Swamp cabbage is a popular Florida dish made from the hearts of Sabal Palms. Swamp cabbage can be prepared and served in many ways, but it is usually fried, stewed or boiled for canning.

Agnes Cypress making swamp cabbage: Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation (1984)

Agnes Cypress making swamp cabbage: Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation (1984)

 

Landscape artists, from the Hudson River School’s Martin Johnson Heade to Albert Ernest “Bean” Backus and the Florida Highwaymen, have found inspiration in Florida’s state tree.

Florida Highwaymen artist R. L. Lewis: Tallahassee (2006)

Florida Highwaymen artist R. L. Lewis: Tallahassee (2006)

 

Thank you, Sabal Palm, for your service to the state of Florida!

Found a great Sabal Palm photo that we missed? Share it with us in the comments.

Stray Livestock Liability Laws

Cattle drive at Bartow (1890s)

Cattle drive at Bartow (1890s)

On June 7, 1949, the Governor of Florida, Fuller Warren, approved Senate Bill No. 34, which required owners of livestock to prevent their animals from “running at large or straying upon public roads.” Under its provisions, ranchers could be held liable for damage done to property or persons by free roaming livestock.

From: General Acts and Resolutions Adopted by the Legislature of Florida... (1949), 545.

From: General Acts and Resolutions Adopted by the Legislature of Florida... (1949), 545.

The act empowered law enforcement officers to “impound livestock running at large,” and to fine delinquent owners the cost of caring for detained animals. If livestock were not claimed within three days of apprehension, the animals would be sold to the highest bidder. If no buyers came forward, the animals could be slaughtered and disposed of at the discretion of local authorities.

Cattle on their way to Tampa: Kissimmee (1904)

Cattle on their way to Tampa: Kissimmee (1904)

The act encouraged ranchers to build fences and contain wandering livestock. Sometimes known as the fence law, historians consider Senate Bill No. 34 the final measure in closing the open range; in particular it ended the centuries-old practices that gave rise to calling Florida cattle workers “cow hunters.”

J.H. Campbell driving cattle: Hardaway (1939)

J.H. Campbell driving cattle: Hardaway (1939)

When Senate Bill No. 34 became law, many in the Florida cattle industry already supported fence laws. From the 1920s to the early 1940s, ranchers were required to treat cattle for ticks. Outbreaks of tick fever could be devastating, and fences made the required roundups easier and less costly. Although Florida was declared tick free in September 1944, outbreaks occurred again in the late 1940s, 1957 and 1960.

Tick inspection station at the Baker County line (ca. 1930)

Tick inspection station at the Baker County line (ca. 1930)

In the second half of the 20th century, the expansion of citrus cultivation, increased development, and tick scares combined to end the reign of Florida’s cow hunters. Senate Bill No. 34 symbolized the close of the Florida frontier.

Mocking Bird: Bird of Matchless Charm

Florida mockingbird and poinsettia blossoms
State bird of Florida
Young Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos): Cape Canaveral, Florida

The Mocking Bird was designated as the State Bird of the State of Florida on April 23, 1927.

Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 3 read, in part:

“WHEREAS, The Legislature of the State of Florida has thrown the arm of its protecting care around the Mocking Bird by the enactment of suitable legislation and,

WHEREAS, The melody of its music has delighted the heart of residents and visitors to Florida from the days of the rugged pioneer to the present comer, and

WHEREAS, This bird of matchless charm is found throughout our State, therefore

Be It Resolved by the Legislature of the State of Florida:

Section 1. That the Mocking Bird be and it is hereby designated as the State Bird of the State of Florida.”

 

Thanks, Mocking Bird, for 85 years of dedicated service as the state bird of Florida!

Florida Repeals Anti-Dueling Law (1832)

On February 8, 1832, Florida’s Territorial Legislature repealed an anti-dueling law. This measure effectively legalized dueling in the Florida territory. The prevalence of dueling attests to the nature of violence and elite masculinity in the antebellum south.
Placard for duel
RC02619 Placard for a duel: Tallahassee, Florida (1839)

In the above placard, William Tradewell challenged rival politician Leigh Read to a duel. Read had previously made a series of inflammatory remarks about his opponent, causing Tradewell to demand an apology. Though the two never squared-off, both men became known for repeatedly resorting to violence as a means of solving disputes.
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