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Does My Insurance Cover Vulture Attacks?

When the spectacle of politicians making (or not making) tax policy taxes my patience past its limits, I sometimes take refuge in a kayak on a secluded waterway, such as in Florida’s Everglades National Park.

Now I have to worry about vultures there, too.

The vultures in this case have wings and beaks, not wingtips and PACs. The Miami Herald reported over the weekend that the vultures that congregate around the park’s headquarters in Flamingo, at the Florida peninsula’s southern tip, have become fixated on the rubber and plastic trimmings that are attached to cars, pickup trucks and SUVs.

The vultures don’t actually eat this indigestible stuff. As native alligators and invasive pythons go at one another all over the park with the gusto of Tea Partiers and MoveOn supporters, the buzzards can rely on plenty of carrion for nourishment. But, for reasons known only to themselves, the birds rip out and toss around wiper blades, door seals, truck bed liners and assorted other vehicle ingredients.

They don’t attack indiscriminately, however. In a parking lot full of shiny cars, the birds will ignore 98 percent of vehicles while they converge on, strip and empty their bowels over a few select targets. Some Republicans would say the vultures are behaving like Democrats.

On the other hand, Mitt Romney may still believe that he has more supporters among those getting their cars trashed in the Everglades than Barack Obama does. The polls do not support this view.

As the hours tick down toward the first vehicle-trashing of 2013, the big question is whether we can get officials to agree on how to tackle the problem. I am not hopeful.

I didn’t want to bother anyone at the National Rifle Association during the final Sunday Night Football game of the NFL season. Based on past positions, I assume their advice is to place armed security officers in the Flamingo parking lots.

We could probably round up a few Republicans to support this idea, but Democrats in Congress and in the administration will never go for it. Not publicly, anyway. But it wouldn’t shock me if there is language in the next National Park Service appropriations bill that creates some leeway for rangers to take stern measures against any bird that poses an imminent threat to a Chevy Volt. This can be packaged as environmental protection, as well as protection for the Treasury’s investment in General Motors.

The park service, however, has not been able to get its arms around the idea of actually shooting the creatures that national parks were created to protect. So park officials in the Everglades have recycled a recent government strategy for dealing with crises: they are handing out tarps to park visitors who ask for them. As far as I know, no visitor is being pressured to accept a tarp simply to avoid stigmatizing those who actually need one.

Alas, the tarps don’t seem to be working very well. It seems that once the vultures pick out the next car or truck that is likely to succumb to an assault, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Government intervention seldom holds off market forces for very long.

We are just going to have to wait and see how the situation plays out. We may not get a resolution before the clock strikes midnight tonight. But don’t fret. Most of the vultures are migratory and will go away when spring arrives. The topics that dominated our attention this weekend - vultures, football and the fiscal you-know-what - will be all but forgotten by Independence Day.

Larry M. Elkin is the founder and president of Palisades Hudson, and is based out of Palisades Hudson’s Fort Lauderdale, Florida headquarters. He wrote several of the chapters in the firm’s recently updated book, Looking Ahead: Life, Family, Wealth and Business After 55. His contributions include Chapter 1, “Looking Ahead When Youth Is Behind Us,” and Chapter 4, “The Family Business.” Larry was also among the authors of the firm’s book The High Achiever’s Guide To Wealth.

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