I managed a few pictures that capture the vast area, but nothing really does it justice. I felt (and was) very small in the middle of acre upon acre of saw grass and mud flats and a few inches of water. We were 8 miles from where the ValueJet plane went down. The boat captain told us that some parts just got sucked right into the mud, never to be seen again. If I’d gotten out of the boat, the water would have been less than knee deep, but I would have sunk in up to my thighs.
Our boat captain teased the little alligator at the dock.
Then he took us to meet Tiny. He knows Tiny is a female (sexing an alligator requires an internal exam) because there is a bigger gator in the same pond and if Tiny were male, the bigger alligator would have driven it off.
This is the bigger gator:
His name is Rambo.
He’s been in a recent fight. His back leg is injured, but is healing. Scientists are quite interested in this ability to heal in fetid waters.
The boat captain would hold out his hand and as the alligator rose its head up, the captain would rap his fingers on the top of its snout and the alligator would open it’s mouth.
“Rambo’s” head was inches away from my knee when I snapped this picture. They seemed almost tame. I still don’t trust them, but I wasn’t afraid. See that black line that runs back from his eye? That’s his ear. Oh, and they hiss.
It was kind of creepy the way they’d circle the boat.
And then slip underneath.
Only to appear again. This time in the front of the boat. I may have lost sight of them, but they never took their eyes off me. Not once.
Florida is the only state where the American crocodile still exists. You can tell the difference between alligators and crocodiles by the shape of their snouts. The alligator’s snout is rounded while the crocodile’s snout is elongated. Neither one have tongues.
Most of the eggs in this alligator nest will be eaten by surrounding wildlife, some before hatching.
Of those that make it, the eggs at the top of the mound will be male and at the bottom of the mound, the emerging baby gators will be female. Temperature decides the sex, the hotter the egg, male, the colder the egg, female. Sounds wrong, doesn’t it? Anyway, the baby gators still aren’t out of the woods, er, swamp, yet. Predatory birds, raccoons, other alligators, yes, even the one that fathered them (talk about life cycle!), pick off unwary babies. Mother gator does what she can for about a year. After that, it’s every gator for him/herself.
That attitude of independence seems to have bubbled over into all of South Florida’s denizens, as we were about to discover during our trip to Key West, but that’s another post for another day. Later, Gators!