Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Slow-Moving 'Gators

By Bobbi

The tourist and his young son were waving their arms back and forth above their heads, yelling at the small alligator in an attempt to get it to move. We overheard them commenting they thought he might be asleep, or maybe just slow. They never did get him to move and that was probably a good thing.

What many people don’t realize, especially if they grew up in a part of the country where alligators are not found, is that yes, they can move and very quickly, too.
An alligator does not move unless it needs or wants to, such as when it’s hungry. It can then travel up to 20 miles per hour across the ground in order to reach its prey. When you see them lying around, it’s usually because they are sunning themselves.

Having lived in Florida for more than 20 years, I have heard a lot of stories and news reports about pets, usually dogs and cats, getting eaten by ‘gators. This almost always happens near creeks, sewage lagoons, ditches filled with water and anywhere else where deeper water is present. They seem to hunt smaller animals but occasionally you hear about a child or adult getting attacked or just “disappearing”.

I recall a story a few years back about a young lady who was out jogging and never made it back to her starting point. She was a tourist and wanted to jog while exploring the countryside. The search party ended up finding her shoes and baseball cap under an overpass but her body was never found. The theory goes that she must have bent over to tie her shoes when a ‘gator spotted her. She had made herself look small so the ‘gator would have thought of her as a meal.

Once alligators bite down, it’s almost impossible to get free. They have very powerful lower jaws that clamp on the object in their mouths then they drag that object away. If they catch something either in the water or drag it to the water, they go into what is call the death spiral. They quickly turn over and over again which serves to drown whatever happens to be in their control. They are then free to eat it at their leisure.

I have seen small alligators in person both at shopping areas and also the John F. Kennedy Space Center near Titusville which is where my story began. It’s a good thing that the father and his son were standing on a raised concrete walkway with concrete railings. They were safe, there.

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