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    Florida briefs

    By Compiled from Times wires

    © St. Petersburg Times, published September 17, 2000


    Baby whale might be first to live in captivity

    KEY WEST -- A baby pygmy sperm whale found stranded might become the first of its species to live permanently in captivity because it can't hunt for food.

    Marine mammal experts will decide within the next few weeks whether Summer, a 205-pound, 6-foot female whale discovered on a Key West beach last June, can be released to its natural habitat -- the ocean's deep waters.

    But the calf, which was never weaned by her mother, can't forage for food, experts say, and possibly has a ruptured air sac on her blunt head.

    Veterinarians have scheduled an MRI to determine the condition of the air sac. Though a ruptured sac isn't serious in captivity, it makes deep diving impossible. Pygmy sperm whales catch squid and jellyfish at depths of 800-plus feet.

    If marine biologists decide that Summer can't be freed, she would make history. The 11-month-old would be the only rehabilitated pygmy sperm whale in captivity.

    The whale was named by handlers at Wildlife Rescue when it was rescued on June 21 -- the summer solstice.

    Boy bitten by snake in own back yard

    BRADENTON -- A 2-year-old boy bitten by a rattlesnake while playing in his own back yard remained hospitalized Saturday.

    Derrick Lema was with his father who was watering their lawn in the Lakewood Ranch neighborhood about 8 miles east of Bradenton when the boy was bitten by the diamondback rattlesnake Friday.

    The toddler was flown to All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg for treatment, and was later listed in serious condition. He was still hospitalized Saturday, but hospital officials said his condition was not being made public.

    "He's still in the hospital but the family has requested that no information be given out," said Debbie Campbell, a nursing supervisor.

    Manatee County Emergency Medical Service Capt. Greg Thomas said the child was bitten in the leg and was lethargic when medical personnel arrived.

    "We get very few snakebites, but when we do, it is very serious," Thomas said. Authorities estimated the snake was about 31/2 feet long.

    Braden River firefighter Fred Young killed the snake with a shovel and it was bagged and also taken by helicopter to the hospital, said Noreen Hollman of the Braden River Fire Rescue.

    Hollman and Thomas said venomous snakebites are rare, with only about three or four reported in the area each year.

    Frank Gamsky, a local businessman who is licensed to handle venomous reptiles, said rattlers and other snakes are prevalent in eastern Manatee and commonly found in the yards and golf courses in new developments.

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