The alligator is one of the original inhabitants of Florida. It is also one of the most identifiable symbols of the State of Florida.
Thinking of Alligators…
While the thought of gators living in close proximity to humans brings shivers to the spine of many, this creature is also a source of awe and interest.
Although there are countless gators in Florida, there is something special about seeing one of the oldest creatures to walk the face of our planet. Especially when that prehistoric creature is not in a zoo, but lazing on the shore of a pond not too far from your backyard!
Some experts suggest that the species has been here for more than 200 million years!
We often hear locals say that wherever there is even a small body of water, there is probably a gator. Whether this statement is true or not, it is important to know that alligators once faced extinction. In 1967, the American alligator was placed on the Endangered Species List. But, in only about two decades this creature had rebounded in significant numbers to warrant removal from the Endangered Species List(in the late 1980s).
If you are in a swampy area, or close to water, it is wise to keep an eye out for these large reptiles. Although our family has lived close to a small pond for years, with the exception of one instance, gators have never come close to the house.
That sole experience with an alligator occurred during one of the first years that my in-laws lived in Englewood.
Our Family gator story
My in-laws had purchased a home in a new development and there was lots of vacant land around them. Early one morning, my mother-in-law was enjoying her coffee in the lanai when she saw an alligator walking down the street.
But a more interesting alligator story involved an acquaintance of ours. One morning she was leaving the house early to go shopping. As she approached her car, she heard scurrying and scratching sounds from under the car. Stopping in her tracks a short distance from her vehicle, she bent over to look under the vehicle. She was just in time to see an alligator run from under the back of the car towards the nearby bushes.
Since hearing that story, I must admit that on my first trip to the car in the morning, I always stop a short distance from the car and look under it, before going to the car door.
On the golf course, keep an eye around the water hazards. Many golf courses take precautions to protect gators and golfers from each other. But it is wise to consider a golf ball in the water, or the reeds around water, a lost ball. Another stroke on your scorecard is the least risky approach. Despite the probable presence of alligators on golf courses, golfing in Florida is a safe way to exercise and enjoy the warm climate.
If you are a nature lover and like to go on hikes, it is a good idea to check with local wildlife authorities about the safer areas to walk. An even better solution is to find one of the many hiking tours that are available in the area.
The American Alligator is a member of the crocodile family. But, before you consider them to be a crocodile there are some differences between gators and crocodiles.
- Gators are usually found in rivers, swamps, bogs, lakes, ponds, creeks, etc. They can tolerate some salt water. Crocodiles are usually found in salt water locations.
- A gator, unlike a crocodile, has a short rounded snout. (Personally, I would find this differentiating characteristic of little value, because I would not want to get close enough to either of these creatures to determine whether its snout was short and rounded.) 😉
- They are the largest reptiles in North America. Some of the adult males (often called bulls) have been measured at 18 feet in length. However, the average length is usually around 13 feet. The tale section usually measures more than half of the body length.
- Their average weight ranges between 450 and 600 pounds.
Despite all of these cautions and stories, our experience with gators in the Englewood area has been limited to seeing them on the golf course or at a distance along the shore of a small lake or pond. Never-the-less, when we go for a ride in the car along a road through a swampy area, we drive very slowly with a constant lookout hoping to see one of these incredible creatures.
More On Florida Wildlife
- Florida Alligator
- Sea Turtles
- Lemon Bay Conservancy
- Cedar Point Environmental Park
- Everglades National Park
- Florida Wildlife in Beautiful Englewood
But not all Florida gators are so elusive, or to be shunned or feared, I can’t resist sitting down in front of the television to watch a football game featuring the Florida Gators. But, this might not be entirely true for everyone, especially those of you who are fans of the Seminoles or Hurricanes!