7-inch-long scorpion kills at least three cats|jon_downes|jon@cfz.org.uk|02/25/06 at 10:50:14|jon_downes|xx|0|172.201.196.9|From the Pinellas Park Beacon (Seminole, FL): 25 Feb. 2006
7-inch-long scorpion kills at least three cats
By THOMAS MICHALSKI

PINELLAS PARK - A giant, lobster-like scorpion that lived in an overgrown
lot off 49th Street killed at least three cats in the last several weeks
before meeting its death Feb. 20 at the hands of auto shop workers.

Identified as an Emperor scorpion, the more than 7-inch-long arachnoid is a
native to Africa.

Officials said the creature probably was someone's pet before it was washed
away during the Feb. 3 rain storm.

The bodies of its three feline victims are buried in the sandy soil behind
National Auto Service Center at 7860 49th St.

A large white and two smaller red crosses mark their graves.

There was an unsubstantiated report of at least one other cat death in a
nearby neighborhood, but it was not determined if it died from a scorpion
sting.

The Emperor scorpion can reach 8 inches long. It's tail has six segments
topped off with a telson, a large ball that contains venom glands and the
stinger.

They often live in nests of undetermined numbers.

Scorpions are related to spiders. Their stings, described as very painful,
rarely are fatal to humans.

Smaller mammals like cats have been known to suffer death from a sting.

The Emperor scorpion is not a native of Florida, though other smaller
species of scorpions have been reported.

Jeanette Hannett, owner of National Auto Service Center, said stray cats
near the garage began dying off about three weeks ago.

"I thought it was food poisoning," Hannett said.

The New Jersey native said her yard man, Steven McCallie, spotted the
scorpion while working in back of the garage. It was on a huge mound of
sandy soil that was dumped there about two years ago.

McCallie and others killed the scorpion that was taken into the garage on a
paper plate.

Hannett said this was not her first encounter with a scorpion. She sees
smaller ones all the time under soda machines and other equipment in her
garage.

"I love animals and really didn't want to harm it," Hannett said. "I can't
kill anything. Everything has a right to live."

The cats, all ferels, were three of many that roam the property. Hannett
feeds them along with possums, raccoons and other wild animals.

"There is a lot of old, damp wood back there," she said of the property.
"That's where scorpions like to live."

Many people believe that scorpions are strictly desert dwellers. One nearby
pet shop owner that sells exotic pets said scorpions live in Florida along
with crawfish.

Tim Caddell, the city's media director, said there are no plans to launch an
investigation into a possible scorpion problem.

"A scorpion in Florida that large is unusual," Caddell said, "but there is
no threat to humans."


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