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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Florida's Alligator Problem

"Florida, over the years has become one of the worlds strongest tourist magnets, with sun soaked beaches and crystal springs. And with a little help from a mouse, Walt Disney World continues to lure more visitors than any other single attraction anywhere in the world. A word of caution, "Watch out for alligators." Once endangered, alligators have made a strong comeback and have become something of a nuisance. Hold onto your small pets." (from Netstate.com)

This quote is the epitome of understatement. Yesterday it was announced that a local woman was killed by an alligator, which brings the death toll to three people killed by alligators in this month alone.

As all of you know, Florida has never been known for it's wealth of intelligentsia. As we've grown and attracted educated people, we've gradually built a small pool of individuals that can walk and chew gum at the same time. (My own family was imported from New York when I was a baby).

So it's no wonder that when I was growing up, we saw a spate of alligator attacks due to moronic old women who would feed wild alligators marshmallows. They'd take jumbo marshmallows, impale them on the end of a stick, and tempt the alligator to come up and eat the marshmallow off the stick. Alligators began to add it up: people = food.

Alligators were everywhere, and no one was happy about it. So it was to everyone's surprise when the government declared the alligator an endangered species in the 70s. "Endangered?" my father, the Scientist, snorted. "They breed like rabbits and they have excellent survival skills. They've been around since the dinosaurs roamed the earth!"

"Well then, why don't you write and tell them, Dad?" I asked. I don't remember his exact reply, but basically he told me that politicians are a frightening lot which continually make terrible mistakes but refuse to be corrected by anyone with an informed opinion. Writing to them about this mistake would have been useless and simply a waste of time.

I thought that was a little harsh, but then we recently had chads, George Bush, and Katherine Harris and I was a political advisor for 5 years, so I stand corrected. Kidding! I do think we can make a difference, but it takes more than one person to do it.

In 1981, the government realized that alligators do, indeed, breed like rabbits. But being unwilling to appear entirely idiotic, the politicians downgraded the status to "protected." Meanwhile, we eat gator ribs, nuggets, and patties in our local restaurants. If you want to buy gator meat, you can go here.

We all remain confused.

35 comments:

Ed Abbey said...

I don't think I would go swimming down there unless it was in swimming pool and even then, I would probably have to scan the entire pool before jumping in. Up here, the most dangerous thing is a snapping turtle and they for the most part leave you alone.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Ed, NO one swims in fresh water here, unless they're nuts. There's an exception if it's a clear running stream which is spring fed (thus very cold) so the gators stay away. We stick to the salt water (shark attacks aren't a major concern, though they happen) or pools.

Notsocranky Yankee said...

When I was a kid, we went to the everglades and had an airboat ride. I couldn't believe all the alligators and realized Florida is not for me. Cranky and I lived in Charleson SC for a few years, and we used to see 'gators on the golf courses. I didn't like that either!

I like it up here with the wild turkeys, moose and deer.

BTW, I like your father's take on politicians -- and that was before "W" was in office! Scary...

Edge said...

Those women must have been slow or stupid or had too many marshmallows in their pockets. I wonder if they were just RIGHT by the water when they were jogging. If you see one, run.

Alligators show up in the DFW area now and then in the lakes when it's rained a lot and the rivers are flooded. They creep up the rivers and get stuck here. NE Louisiana has them, and you hear stories of dogs disappearing, but that's about all.

~Jef

Edge said...

I meant NW La.

~Jef

The Lazy Iguana said...

Right now is the time of year when gators get horny and go looking for love. They also get cranky, and tend to roam a bit.

The gator that attacked the jogger is the attack that puzzles me. Was she jogging or did she have her feet in the water while resting? I have heard conflicting reports. If she was jogging, and no part of her was in the water, the attack is the most aggressive attack I have ever heard of. Gators simply do not do that. They attack at the waters edge, not on dry land.

The 23 year old woman was swimming in a lake in Ocala. This is a more typical attack. Like you said, you have to be careful when you pick lakes to swim in. Cold, clear, spring fed bodies of water are ok - as gators mostly avoid them.

The third victim is a bit of a mystery. Her pruse was found to contain crack and crack smoking devices. People do strange things when they are on crack.

Anyway, I have tubed down rivers, and swam in canals and rock pits. I have canoed in waters with alligators, even doing stuff like "swamp and recover" drills where you intentionaly tip the canoe over, let it fill with water, then recover it. I have walked up to canals in everglades at night to take a leak in them. I have walked and/or rode a bike within feet of gators. Never has a gator showed any signs of hostility towards me.

Three attacks in one week is just not something that happens. Or at least it was something that used to never happen. Very strange.

Valerie - Riding Solo said...

for me the humidity is the killer in FL! I don't do large reptiles in any state.

I just feel badly for the families.

~Deb said...

They had this documentary on PBS or National Geographic---something to that nature, that people are constantly moving in on the alligators. They are moving where they live—which means the inevitable visit of these alligators possibly coming for a visit or two.

Kathleen said...

These events are too horrible for me to discuss. I am a freak when it comes to the thought of being grabbed from beneath the water. I hated the movie JAWS and avoided the water for a couple of years after viewing it. Notsocranky is right. Deer, moose, turkey, etc. are not so sinister.

Grant said...

A local cajun seafood restaurant has fried alligator on the menu. I always wondered if it was real 'gator meat since I grew up with the notion that they were endangered. How do they taste, anyway? They seem like they'd be great to hunt, if you hunt the way I think it should be done (in their territory armed only with our supposedly superior human intellect).

Mr. Althouse said...

It's all your fault, Saur! I came by to read your daily musings and felt compelled to leave my two cents. Ok, not much new there, but as I'm writing in that itty-bitty comment window, I realized that I'm going to need much more room to fully explore what I want to say.

So it's your fault!

I started off in reminiscence about the days of my youth spent on the gulf coast. From there, I meandered into my experience with alligators as a result, wandered over to lifestyles of the west and gulf coasts, into hurricanes and devastation and back to alligators.

And all your fault!

You can read it on my page, complete with before and after Katrina pictures.

Thanks;-')

~Mike

Ellen said...

They had a story on our local news about this yesterday morning, and attributed it to the amount of land that's being taken over by humans into the very breeding grounds of the gators. That and lack of any real rain so that the gators have to go searching for water. Who knows?
One story was about a lady gardening in her yard who was nipped at by a gator, and she used her garden hose to beat him in the snout, to which he promptly ran off.

By the way... we used to serve gator in one of the restaurants I worked at, and it was grissley at best in taste. I never tried it, but was told that by someone who did.

R2K said...

The gator meat was pretty good last time I had it down there.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Alex, It IS yummy, isn't it? As long as it's prepared well.

Ellen, well, that's true only to a certain extent. Only 3% of our land is undeveloped, and it's been that way since the 80s. No, the simple fact is that they've been breeding and there are a lotta them out there.

Mike A, awesome! I'll stop by and check it out!

Grant, it's actually very tasty if it's cooked right. It CAN taste unpleasantly fishy, but most of the stuff I've had is more like a cross between mild fish and chicken. My philosophy when it comes to eating: I will eat anything that is ugly or could kill me in an unarmed fight. This does not apply to men.

Kathleen, yeah, I'm very careful when I skirt the pond in my neighborhood.

Deb, see my post to Ellen. Most of our growth isn't into alligator territory.

Valerie, I grew up w/ it so the humidity's actually welcome. My skin and hair are much better for it. It's the dry winters that I hate.

Lazy Iguana, excellent analysis. Yeah, the crack 'ho probably wandered up to the thing, thinking it was a Prada bag. The jogger is the confusing one, but she may have stopped to catch her breath, and then the gator caught her.

Jef, have you ever seen one of those things run??? Good heavens, you'd never question how quick they can snap on you, ever again. I saw one trapped once. Creepy.

Notsocranky, if I'd listened to my Dad more, I would've saved myself a world of trouble. ;o)

Jenn said...

Yipes! I see they love to attack skinny dippers.

actonbell said...

First off, that's a sick poster.

People were tempting alligators with marshmellows??? omg And three attacks within a week is scary.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Acton Bell, It is refreshingly sicko, isn't it? I am amazed that a movie in the 70s was able to get away with it. I had to put it up, so help me. I got carried away with the kitsch of it all. Yeah, people are amazingly dumb. As for the attacks, I hope it's just some weird abberation...

Jenn, ;o)

BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

Saur,

I MUST print out this picture.

The other day, at court, I was talking about this, and this guy (who has a stick up his ass) says, how could you think this is funny?

It is rather unusual, you must admit! No-one thinks it is funny because of the results, but the fact that gators are eating humans is rather unusual, you must confess!!!

Saur♥Kraut said...

Barbara, ;o) It's a keeper. I hear the movie's just as classy!

Senor Caiman said...

Saur,

No one should show disrespect to a Gator.

I did a lot of skiing on Lake Tarpon during my youth. The trick to keeping the Gator uninterested in white meat is to tie two Muskovey ducks together. You can ski all day because those Muscovey ducks don’t tire easily and the Gators find them tasty. I know I couldn’t understand the appeal of feathers in the face until I started to go to Vegas.

Thanks for this warning post.

michelle said...

I watch for gators every time I ride my bike around the lake near our home. My hubby just has to say something everytime I walk out the door. "Take your cell phone and call me if a gator starts chasing you. I'll call 911 before I head out the door."

Thanks dear.

Nihilistic said...

Gator meat...BLUH!!!

Brianne said...

I also think it's odd to hear of gators eating humans. I could not imagine getting devoured as such!

And speaking of keeping our four-legged friends on a leash, I wonder why we havent heard much about pets being attacked? I'm assuming fido is more likely or being attacked, but maybe thats just me?

Badoozie said...

i dont think i want to eat gator meat. i really don't want to see gator meat, or go anywhere near a gator for that matter. i'm gator biased. gatorracist, so to speak.

Live, Love, Laugh said...

how horrible. Now you gave me alligator phobia and I love the lake, however now I am skeered to go into the ocean and I will stay in the boat at the lake!! I am not going to be a gator snack!

mal said...

are these the same morons that fed the bears in Yellowstone?

Saur♥Kraut said...

Mallory, no, sadly humanity just has a strong streak of idiocy running through it.

LLL, well... probably you don't have that sort of problem in Texas? Or DO you?

Susie, you're speciesist! *gasp* Yeah, it's a real word.

Brianne, well... it wouldn't be a fun way to go. Just like a shark attack. But we have tons of animal attacks by gators. It's just not spectacular enough to make it to your papers, probably.

Nihilistic, mmm, mmm, good!

Michelle, :D Does he really??? That's funny! Happily you're on a bike, and I've never heard of one chasing a bike. Yet...

Gator, :D I'll remember the duck tip.

exMI said...

I have no problem imagining alligators eating peopel. They are alpha predators, they will eat anything. Now they generally avoid people but in places like Florida where the swamps ahve been filled in the gators are in the back yard so it is hard to avoid. If we are going to move into the critter's house expect to get eatten every once and awhile.

mckay said...

i just heard on the news about a FL woman who's in trouble for shooting a gator that entered her house through the doggie door. they shoo'd it out, and it kept lunging at them and kept coming into the house. it tried to attack her dog, her daughter and finally she shot the dang thing. now she's in trouble.

lesson to be learned. keep your doggie doors locked, people.

are the attacks really up, or all they all just making the news after the three ladies were killed?

Is there a smell that repells gators? that's what i'd be bathing in...maybe.

p.s. love the poster. it's merveilleusement visqueux!

Mr. Fabulous said...

Every once in while I'll try gator meat at a restaurant, but I am always disappointed.

I have always been facinated by them, though, and I'll often go down to Paynes Prairie to watch them.

Three Score and Ten or more said...

I feel like one of the little old ladies. When I first moved my family into the south we took a family trip to the Okefenokee just south of us. Before officially entering the park we stopped at a picnic ground for lunch. Just as we got lunch unpacked this enormous gator (He had some famous local name, but I forget what it was - Okefenokee Fred, or something like that) came lumbering up out of the pond to the edge of our picnic table, opened his mouth and roared. He received sandwiches, Kentucky fried chicken, anything he wanted (I had six children with me, the youngest about two, I wasn't going to do anything to antagonize that critter. Eventually he went back to the pond, and we finished what little was left of our lunch. We noticed as we left signs about not feeding the gator, but as I said, I wasn't going to turn him down. When we got into the park office, they told us that he was, at last measurement 18 and one half feet long and had been there as long as anyone could remember. (I think he is now in the museum, stuffed with polyfoam instead of KFC.)

Meow said...

Fair's fair ... Gators eat people, people eat gators !!
Don't know if I could though ... seems wrong, somehow !!
I think alligators, and our crocodiles are extremely fascinating creatures. They appear to be prehistoric, like they never changed over the past few million years.
That being said, I don't care to meet any face to face !!!
Take care, Meow

Anonymous said...

I consider myself a Florida girl. I grew up here, however my parents did move me down here when I was a small child. I don't particularly care for alligators or fresh bodies of water here because they are all dangerous. But I do still utilize them when the occasion permits. If you use safety precautions like staying away from the shoreline of lakes, don't feed the gators ANYTHING, and you should generally steer clear of water with poor visibility, They love it, you should be alright. I mean I just spent 12 hours out on a lake here tubing and fishing and no one got hurt. We were even in the water swimming between our boats.

James said...

Badoozie commented on being a Gatorracist " ! I guess I would be in jail for sure because I would be a " mass murderer " of alligators and Crocks !! Wonder how long one would be an animal lover if a dangerous critter had hold of them or their beloved pet ?
Humans first -- Politicians last !!
James

Anonymous said...

where i live there is a 8-10ft alligator in my backyard, we called the wildlife rescue and removal service, they said they wouldnt take it out until it acctually hurt someone. do they want people to die??
we have about seven kids in the area who like to play next to the pond!!
we are not asking it to be killed only removed.