By Guest Blogger Dave
For me it was Alligators Love At First Sight. When we first visited Florida I must admit that one of the highlights I was looking forward to was seeing a real live American Alligator in its natural habitat.
I have always enjoyed nature and for me the alligator just seemed to scream nature at its wildest. I was not disappointed, although where I first saw them was a surprise. At one of the parking lots for the amusement parks I noticed some small drainage canals and wondered over to look and to my surprise found alligators. Small ones, a few feet long, but none the less, alligators, one of which is pictured below. For me it was love at first site and I continue to look for them every time we go back to Florida.
Where To Look For Alligators
When you visit Florida keep your eyes open around rivers, ponds and swamps and you will also most likely see one of the largest reptiles in North America, the American Alligator. The alligator was first named by the early Spanish explorers and was called el lagarto, which meant “the lizard”. Over time it was slowly changed to just alligator.
There are about 1.25 million of them in Florida today. It was not always that way and hunting almost drove them to extinction. In 1967 the American Alligator was designated as an endangered species meaning hunting was outlawed. They bounced back in a big way, and by 1987 the Wildlife Service decided the American alligator was fully recovered and removed it from the endangered species. It was also named the official Florida reptile in 1987.
If you don’t see one, you are not alone. Sometimes I can go days without seeing even a tiny one and then all of a sudden I will come across one in a small pond in the middle of a very populated area.
Don’t Feed The Alligators
The last time I was in Orlando I visited the town of Celebration, an upscale community with a nice little pond in the middle and there was one, about four foot long, right up against some stone steps that lead to an outside eating area. Normally they will shy away from people, particularly at this size, but this one did not seem to be bothered.
I would guess that some people have been throwing it food scraps when they are eating. This is not only dangerous, but illegal in all of Florida. The reason it is dangerous is because it teaches them there is food when people are around, and the next time someone gets too close with a little puppy or infant it will not know the difference between them and food.
Larger alligators do not shy from people and in fact look at us as potential food. The average size of these large ones is about thirteen feet, but there are exceptions, and the largest ever caught, was just over nineteen feet. As you can imagine, although I love to see them, when I walk near bodies of water, I keep my distance from the actual water whether there is a danger sign or not.
They can be hard to spot being black and looking a lot like a floating log. By the way don’t lean too far off of a dock either when you see one. The average adult alligator can leap up to six feet out of the water.
Beware If You Drag The Wife Along
Still, I love to look for them and take pictures when I can. My favorite is above, and the alligator looks just as mysterious as I feel they are. This particular picture did cost me a little grief; actually my wife got the worst of it. I knew where to find this alligator as I had been to the pond before.
While there I had noticed that there were quite a few anthills, but did not worry about them because I could see them and after all what is a few ants. Well, as it turns out not all the anthills were that visible in the deep grass, and these ants were more than the usual ones I knew of from living in Massachusetts.
These were Fire Ants, which I found out after dragging my wife to come see the alligator with me. She had on flip-flops and happened to stand near a small nest of the ants while I was taking the picture. Well… do I need to say more?
The fact that alligators have survived for millions of years in basically the same form amazes me. Clearly they are survivors and the only other animal dangerous enough to almost drive them to extinction is humans.
How have you encountered alligators in Florida? Please comment below.
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