Miami’s Hidden Animal Kingdom

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Wild Nights with Mireya Mayor showcases the animal kingdom living within our urban communities. Explorer Dr. Mireya Mayor talks with Inside Wild about tracking down a diverse range of creatures – from giant Burmese pythons to gentle manatees – in one of the upcoming episodes, Miami.

Jodi: While in Miami, you team up with a team of chicken busters. For years you’ve tracked gorillas in the wild – how does tracking chickens compare?

Mireya: Chasing chickens is nothing like tracking gorillas and in some ways much tougher! Chickens are extremely fast and there’s a true technique in catching them. On the bright side, I didn’t have to worry about being charged by a 400lb chicken.

Jodi: What was it like to hand fish tarpon in Miami? I hear there’s an interesting technique to attract the tarpons to the dock…

Mireya: You put bait in your hand and the tarpon will come. I was shocked to see blood coming from my hand because they don’t really have teeth. But as it turns out, the bony plates in their mouth can do a lot of damage! It was painful!

Jodi: You’re an international explorer, born and raised in Miami… Were you surprised to discover anything new about your city’s wild animals during the filming of Wild Nights: Miami?

Mireya: I wasn’t aware of just how much incredible wildlife we have here. Who knew chickens were taking over the city or that alligators show up in people’s kitchens? I also took manatees for granted because I saw them all the time. Miami is one of the few places in the world where you can find this incredible, large aquatic mammal outside of an aquarium!

Jodi: In Miami, you went diving with bull sharks – and in rough waters! Were you nervous at all? I think I’d be terrified…

Mireya: Diving with bull sharks is an adrenalin rush. These sharks are known for their agressive and unpredictable behavior. In fact, it was bull sharks that Jaws was originally based on, not the great whites. There is something thrilling about swimming with such amazing apex predators!

Jodi: Manatees are a hot button conservation issue in Miami and the surrounding warm water areas… What can be done to help prevent these docile mammals from boat-related injuries?

Mireya: These gentle giants are subject to injury from the razor sharp propellers of boats. Boating is of course a favorite pastime here, but there is a way to co-exist. There are manatee wake zone signs posted in areas that these creatures frequent. If you’re boating through these areas be respectful and coast through slowly and carefully. They are such special, unique and beautiful animals.

Jodi: It sounds like wrestling an alligator is quite the rush! How was your experience with the ‘gator guys’ of Miami?

Mireya: The “Gator Boys” are fantastic and the go-to guys if you need to learn how to handle a wild gator. You have to be confident and quick when you decide to jump on a gator’s back. A moment’s hesitation can cost you your life, so it’s critical that I commit. This was difficult to do with a six foot gator! All I can say is don’t try this at home.

Jodi: There are thousands of pythons on the loose in Miami… what’s being done to capture and control these hungry predators? 

Mireya: Pythons are real problem in Miami because they are detrimental to the native species here. Part of the problem is that people buy them as pets, but can’t handle or house them when they get bigger. It is so important that people who are purchasing these snakes know what they are getting themselves into and not dispose them into the Everglades thinking it is the right thing to do.

Jodi: What was your most exhilerating experience during the filming of Wild Nights: Miami?

Mireya: Miami is a phenomenal and vibrant city. Even though it is known for wild parties their is a whole other level of wild here! All you have to do is check out the gigantic sea turtles that hit the beaches. They are the size of Volkswagens! I would say my favorite moment was laying next to one and making sand angels, and then watch her return to the sea.

Wild Nights: Miami airs on Nat Geo Wild Tuesday September 21 at 9P et/pt.


  1. ReneeFrancis
    September 22, 2010, 5:38 am

    Enjoyed the show! I’m just north of Miami in a small little fishing town called Sebastian. I live on the intercoastal waterway of the Indian River Lagoon. Right at where fresh water from the St. Sebastian River meets the salt water through the Sebastian Inlet. Home of the Bull Sharks! Recently had an encounter with one on my kayak. Also, the Tarpon run is presently happening in the Atlantic Ocean right now. Never knew the don’t have teeth. Think I’ll still pass on hand feeding them though 🙂 Also, lots of dolphin and manatees cruise the waters as well as some monster alligators hanging out on the banks of the St. Sebastian River. If you ever get a chance come visit Sebastian Florida for yourself. One more thing loved your boots gotta know who the maker is! Thanks!