I have always liked alligators. I have been around them as long as I can remember in one way or another. When I was a kid and we would go water skiing near North River Shores close to the North Fork of the St Lucie River, we would see small ones leisurely resting in storm pipes coming out of people’s seawalls; in my household everyone was always cheering for them as my grandfather Henderson, my parents, and later myself and brother also graduated from University of Florida. Jenny my sister is a traitor and went to Emory. 🙂
My parents have an awesome collection of alligator postcards that I will share today, and I figured now is a good time to write about gators as their babies should be hatching soon in nests along the fresh and some brackish areas of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. The females lay their eggs in early June and the little ones hatch out about 65 days later.
“Crocodilla” fossil records show alligators have been on the earth for more than 200 million years. That’s pretty amazing in and of itself. But they have had many hardships.
According to Sandra Thurlow’s history writings on our Treasure Coast, when many of the first pioneers came to Florida and took river tours, they often just shot as many as they could “for fun.” This went for egrets and herons too. Sorry. But what a bunch of idiots. I know, I must be open minded and look at things “historically” within the context of the times….kind of like how people drained the whole state with out thinking…
As far as alligators, more recently, hunting, poaching, the fashion industry, pollution, and loss of habitat pushed the Florida alligator to the brink of extinction by the 1950s. In 1967 the US government listed alligators as an endangered species and gave them protection. In one of the great comebacks of the “endangered,” alligators were increasing in numbers by the 1980s. They still have protections today, but are off the “endangered” list.
Here are some of the antique postcards from my parents’ collection.
Recently, a friend called me up and asked if there was someone who could move a small alligator on her property in Palm City. I called trappers recommended to me, and each of them said by law, if the alligator was reported as a “nuisance” and was over four feet, it would be removed and killed, not relocated.
I found this depressing but this is how the state manages the “nuisance gators.” Apparently they may be used for their leather and meat keeping the population in check. Hmmm? The trapper also said, “If you don’t want it killed, just leave it alone, chances are it will move in time to another area.” This makes sense to me.
According to a Stuart News article by Ed Killer in 2010, in the state of Florida, the Florida Wildlife Commission from 1948 to 2009 documented that there were a total of 512 allligator bites; unprovoked: 330; provoked, 182; fatalities, 22. There have been two deaths in our Martin/St Lucie area. In 1978 a 14 year old boy was killed while swimming across Hidden River Canal off Bessey Creek and in 1984 an 11 year old boy was killed while swimming in a canal in St Lucie County. The alligators were 11-12 feet long.
This is terrible and heartbreaking. Like sharks, alligators share our environment are dangerous when large; we must be careful in their presence.
To end on a more positive note, in my reading I learned alligators have been noted using tools, like humans, a trait that belongs only to a few “intelligent” species. Yes. Alligators have been documented purposefully diving under the water putting sticks on their heads so water birds will land on them when looking for sticks to build their nests. Ingenious!
Maybe if we destroy the Indian River Lagoon and St Lucie River completely, along with the rest of the planet, they will return walking on two legs? Perhaps they would manage the waters of South Florida a lot better than humans…
LINKS OF INTEREST
Florida Memory Project/Alligators: (http://www.floridamemory.com/photographiccollection/photo_exhibits/alligators/protection.php)
FWC/Alligator Facts: (http://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/managed/alligator/facts/)
FWC/Alligator Management: (http://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/managed/alligator/)
Encyclopedia of Life/Alligators: (http://eol.org/data_objects/15661319)