Friday, January 27, 2012

American Alligator

An American Alligator, Alligator mississippiensis, cruises slowly down a blackwater canal in southern Georgia's Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.

This post is a bit of a blast from the post - from my November 2011 trip to the Okefenokee. I had intended to share some gator photos shortly after the trip, but a crush of other subjects nearly relegated the giant reptiles to the scrap bin.

There are several thousand alligators in the Okefenokee's 438,000 acres, and if you visit, you're almost sure to see some. This stegosaurus-tailed bruiser was hauled out on a muddy embankment, and gave us his best repilian grin as we slowly cruised by in our swamp boat.

This old boy was in repose along a road, and apparently some fool tossed a pebble on its head. A "sleeping" gator looks dead and still as stone, but only an idiot would closely approach one. While attacks on people are very rare, only Darwin Award candidates test their luck.

An exceptionally massive old male can reach 14 feet in length and weigh half a ton. In spite of their bulk, big gators can move with astonishing speed, and become scaly Esther Williams' when in the water. They'll occasionally attempt to snap perched birds from limbs overhanging the water, and can nearly lunge free of the water. There is a great story of an Okefenokee swampman who was cruising a canal in his motorized johnboat when he rounded a bend only to meet a big gator that was hotfooting it right at his boat. The spooked reptile leapt free of the water and right into the guy's boat! After a wild tussle the boatman managed to lever it over the side with a pole, nearly capsizing in the process. He got a cool story out of that encounter!


Vincent Lucas said...

I just watched a 10-footer catch and eat a hapless Anhinga the other day. Gruesome but fascinating. The whole process took about 1/2 hour and then the gator pretty much went to sleep with a full belly. On another note, you'd be amazed at what objects turn up in the bellies of these beasts! Anything from old license plates to soda cans to water bottles. . . .

terskac said...

I saw a humongous gator run through about 12 inches of water to chase a GRH away from its nest ( I guess) and it threw up a rooster tail about 10 feet in the air and enough mud to look like someone dropped a jet ski from the sky. You do not want to be anywhere near a defensive gator. You will not out run it. I was actually a little traumatized by this. I have heard they are quick but you have to see it to believe it. I now have a great respect for them.

Jim McCormac said...

Wow! What a snack an Anhinga must make! I always wonder about the safety of those and other swamp swimming/wading birds when gators are afoot.