While visiting my family in Florida, I had the wonderful opportunity of reading an article seemingly written to debunk the myths surrounding alligators. Now, I want to admit my bias upfront. Short of claiming you can tame a gator, in my mind there are no myths. It is all possible, it is all true, the things you have heard have all happened; no wait, they are probably still happening as I type! Alligators.....sheesh.
You see, when I am in Florida, my mind is constantly on alligators. It is my answer for just about anything.
Friend 1: Hey, ya wanna go skiing this weekend on the lake?
Me: Um, hello? Alligators!
Friend 2: I went air boating this weekend with my uncle.
Me: You mean, with the Alligators.
Friend 3: I want to take you deep sea fishing.
Me: Sharks....AND Gators. (Ok, this might be pushing it a little. But only a little. It is Florida after all and strange things seem to happen there.)
Cousin: Went to coach the swim team and guess what I had to drag out of the pool?
Me: An alligator. (True story, he really did.)
So, you don't want to drive too close to me on the highways in FL because my eyes sometimes wander from the road as I glance to see if there are any gators in the swampy areas, or lakes, or retention ponds. You just never know. I almost missed seeing a beautiful American Bald Eagle fly right over my car the other day because I was trying to determine if the log I saw was really a gator in disguise. (It wasn't, but it could have been!)
All that said, here are my answers to SpaceCoast Living where they had written these facts on the American Alligator. They start off with a little alligator history:
The American Alligator is an unusual success story of a species that came back from the brink of extinction to a species that is now thriving in the Southeastern United States.
Oh, thank goodness. I was so worried we might lose the flesh eating monsters
! Seriously, I won't take the time to argue the definition of success story, but all I know is WE DID THIS! We dumb humans decided we couldn't live without Alligators and now they are THRIVING....really and truly. It does make you wonder if Darwin was wrong. How did we ever make it as a species when we are constantly saving the creatures that CAN EAT US?!
Myth 1: Alligators will eat humans.
Fact: Although rare, alligators are opportunistic eaters.
Well, DUH! What about that mouth would make you think otherwise?
Myth 2: Alligators will grow to over 20 feet in length.
Fiction: The largest alligator ever claimed to be in existence was 19.8 feet.
|Picture of a stuffed gator at a rest station in North Florida. |
Oh, 19.8 feet. That makes it SOOO much better. For a minute there I thought we REALLY had something to worry about....seriously, a few inches from 20 feet long. Think about it. SO WHAT IF NO 20 FOOTERS HAVE EVER BEEN FOUND? Alligators. Sheesh.
Myth 3: Alligators will eat anything in their path.
|This one was only about 10 feet....pretty sure it could still eat you.|
Fiction: Alligators, especially healthy ones can go months between meals....
Oh, ok. Let's be friends and just hope that they ate yesterday. A little Gator Roulette is always fun. Hello? Why would you even give people the idea that they might be able to get close to one, so long as he isn't hungry....I'm mean, it is Florida and people's brains are a little sun-fried....they might just take up that challenge!
Myth 4: Alligators cannot run from side to side.
Fact: Gators can only run in a straight line so if one starts chasing you, run in a zigzag pattern.
WHAT? ALLIGATORS WILL CHASE YOU????
Actually, this is a well-known fact to all children growing up in Florida. They teach it right along with tying shoes and not sticking fingers in electrical outlets and staying out of the shower in a thunder storm. I have known this for as long as I can remember. I have even had nightmares about being chased by alligators....more than once...in my adult life. (Yes, I have alligator dreams frequently, maybe once a month, even still....) Seriously. Zig zag. Don't forget! (And just so you non-natives know, alligators can also jump REALLY. REALLY. HIGH! I wonder why this writer decided to leave that little fact out? Seems like it might be important, unless of course, he's trying to weed out the riffraff...)
Myth 5: Gators are only found in freshwater.
Fiction: Gators are mostly found in freshwater, however....
"Mostly!" and "However...." Need I say more? Seriously, they sometimes are found on the beaches because they get swept out in the tide at the inlets. These big buggers are no laughing matter. You can't even swim at the beach in safety. If the sharks or jellies don't get you, who knows, there could be a 19.8 foot gator waiting. But don't worry, at least he's not 20 feet and can only run straight. (You just better pray he ate a shark on his way out to sea, mate.)
Myth 6: Alligators will not stay submerged underwater for long periods of time.
Fiction: Alligators can stay submerged for several hours....
Really, does this even matter? Here's a little clue: if you are going to Florida, just assume that there are gators in any and every body of water. Thriving. Hiding. Waiting for their next meal. It could be you. Beware. I warned you.
Or better yet, skip going south and come to MN where nothing in our lakes will eat you. And you can drive on them half the year. For the fun of it. Because, frozen lakes are totally awesome.....(Hey, at least there aren't alligators!)