Those Beady Eyed Alligators!!

There's sometime viscerally disconcerting about looking into the eyes of an alligator.  Dark, non-blinking, but clearly focused on you, it sends a shiver up my spine.  Something being tickled in the primitive parts of my brain -- prey intuitively recognizing a successful killing and eating machine that has survived for millions of years.  They sure look menacing with those armored bodies, powerful tails and dozens of sharp teeth, like the apex predators they are.  

 

My instincts make me back off and keep a good distance, and that's good advice for everyone -- stay at least 4 m (13 ft) from alligators (and crocodiles) because over a 2 meter distance there's no faster attack animal on the planet.  You won't have a chance to evade them if you get too close and they decide to go after you.  But fortunately alligator attacks against people are rare.  Still, thank goodness for the telephoto lens and for Florida's Everglade, where you find these very interesting American Alligators in large numbers and where I snapped these picks a few months ago.

 

It's hard to believe that only a few decades ago the American alligator was in danger of extinction.  Hunted for its hide (and to a lesser degree its flesh), populations rapidly declined.  But today there are more than a million of them ranging from Florida to Louisiana.  While seeming awkward on land, they're amazingly fast on a short distance attack and great swimmers.  Their diet mostly consists of fish, birds, turtles -- rarely larger prey.  Alligators can measure up to 15 feet (4.5 m) and can weigh 1,000 pounds (450 kg); females are shorter and smaller, growing up to 9.8 feet (3 m).  They may live 50 years in the wild.  

 

We saw dozens of alligators when in Florida, and here are some of my favorite photos of them. 

 

Everglades alligator

Everglades alligator

Everglades alligator

Everglades alligator

Everglades alligator

Everglades alligator

Everglades alligator

Everglades alligator

Everglades alligator

Everglades alligator

Everglades alligator

Everglades alligator

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Twitter: @DrFumblefinger

"We do not take a trip, a trip takes us".  John Steinbeck, from Travels with Charlie

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Great pictures...I hope telephoto? Wouldn't want to be that close.

 

They're amazingly good at camouflage...I remember a bayou tour in Louisiana a few years ago...we were very surprised when the guide tossed a block of wood into the water near a log...and the log came to life!

The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

If Gators see you close by, will they come for a closer look ?

When Gators have attacked people - is this because folks have stumbled into their territory ? 

 

I'm reminded of a poem (to give it dignity) by the late Ogden Nash.

 

The Purist

I give you now Professor Twist...

a conscientious scientist.

Trustees exclaimed "He never bungles!"

and packed him off to distant jungles.

 

Camped by a tropic riverside,

one night he missed his loving bride.

She had, the guide informed him later,

been eaten by an alligator.

 

Professor Twist could not but smile:

You mean, said he, a crocodile!

The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

Last edited by PHeymont

Wild gators rarely attack people unless you stumble onto them -- say fall off your bike on top of a gator sunning himself.  They are happiest to avoid humans.

 

Problems arising when people feed gators.  Then they can become aggressive and associate people with food.  If you don't give them any, they might decide to take a bite out of you..  That said, gator attacks are still very rare.

 

And yes, they're great at hiding themselves, Pheymont.  You really need to train your eye to see them as they lie motionless (until something they want to eat wanders by).

Twitter: @DrFumblefinger

"We do not take a trip, a trip takes us".  John Steinbeck, from Travels with Charlie

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