Back to Nature (Published on TBNWeekly.com - May 24, 2006)
Alligator attacks raise concern
Alligator attacks kill two women in less than a week and may have played a role in
the death of a third woman. The following is from several publications, all of
which used Associated Press reports:
|Photo by Rick Tremmel
|Alligators are survivors and
are interesting to observe from a safe distance.
Annemarie Campbell was captured and killed while snorkeling in a secluded
recreation area near Lake George, about 50 miles southeast of Gainesville.
Yovy Suarez Jimenez was attacked while out jogging near a Broward County canal.
The medical examiners are still investigating how Yovy came in contact with the
alligator. One theory is she may have slipped and fell into the canal.
On Sunday, May 14, a homeless woman, Judy Cooper, was discovered near an Oldsmar
canal in East Lake Woodlands, her body apparently dismembered by an alligator. Her
purse and drugs were found nearby. The medical examiner ruled an alligator did
contribute to Coopers death.
In 58 years, only 17 alligator attacks have been confirmed. These recent attacks
obviously raise awareness and concern.
Florida residents know first-hand about what it takes to survive in a tropical
climate. We will
survive. Batteries and flashlights were sold out around Tampa Bay by noon the day
before Hurricane Charley was to make landfall in our region. We learned to take
nature seriously. There were lineups at the gas pumps as early as 9 a.m. By 7 p.m.
it was visually apparent by the streets of boarded up windows, closed businesses
and prepared EMS officials and staff that Tampa Bay residents were taking this
We learned respect, fear and awe of nature. Human motto: be prepared.
A few of our planets oldest species have survived by living by this simple
rule: be prepared. One of the most ancient beings on our planet is the indomitable
alligator, a real dinosaur. Plain and simple, they were here before us and they
will probably be here after weve made a mess of things and are gone. If there
is one warm body of fresh clean water somewhere in the subtropics youll find
a member of the crocodilian family. Dinosaur motto: We will survive. Be
Alligators, of the crocodilian family, evolved from a common ancestor with
dinosaurs that were walking on earth even before other reptiles, such as lizards,
snakes and turtles appeared. Although alligators are classified as reptiles they
are in fact closely related to birds, whose ancestors were also dinosaurs. Theory
has it that the feathers on birds are actually elongated scales.
Alligators and their relatives are the last of the living reptiles that are
closely related to dinosaurs. Although the alligator is considered threatened they
are making a healthy comeback.
Alligators have short, blunt, rounded snouts; most crocodile species have longer,
pointed snouts. The upper teeth of the alligator show when the mouth is closed.
Eyes, nostrils, and ears are located on the same plane allowing for the entire body
to be submerged, except for these organs. A protective covering of bony plates lies
under the skin across the back.
Even with armor, the
animal is extremely flexible and quick. Alligators are between 6 and 16 feet in
length, although any over 12 feet is rare. The largest recorded American alligator
was 19 feet in length. Female alligators rarely exceed 9 feet in length, but males
can grow much larger. The Florida state record for length is a 14 foot 5/8 inch
male from Lake Monroe in Seminole County. The Florida record for weight is a 1,043
pound (13 feet, 10.5 inches long) male from Orange Lake in Alachua County.
They have a long powerful tail for swimming. Large alligators will eat anything
they can overpower including humans. Alligators do not chew their food, they
swallow items whole or tear chunks off by grasping and rolling. They are known to
stash food until decomposition begins. Stones are swallowed to aid in
Alligators do not recognize the difference between domestic pets and wild food
sources. When an alligator is hungry, they act on their hunting instinct and may
attempt to feed on your house pet if given the opportunity.
How often have you observed people walking their pets up to the waters edge
where ponds and lakes are clearly marked, BEWARE OF ALLIGATORS. What are they
thinking? It doesnt require the intelligence of a brain surgeon to ascertain
who is at real fault in this situation, does it?
One of the most common mistakes humans make in contact with alligators is feeding
them. Alligators do not distinguish between a treat thrown or the hand that is
throwing the treat. Feeding an alligator is training that alligator to equate and
associate humans with food.
These latest attacks and deaths are horrifically tragic. Nothing can be said to
bring these loved ones back. But we may prevent senseless deaths in the future by
being aware of safety precautions.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Safety Guidelines
1. Dont feed the alligators.
This is a most important rule! Providing food for these wild animals not only
makes them bolder and encourages them to seek out people, it also alters their
natural diet in an unhealthy way.
2. Keep your distance.
Although they may look slow and awkward, these animals are extremely powerful and
can move with a startling burst of speed on land over short distances. A safe
distance from an adult alligator is about 60 feet.
3. Never disturb nests or small alligators.
4. Keep your pets and children away from alligators.
5. Dont swim in areas that are known alligator habitats.
Karen can be reached at MyMuddyPawsStudio@gmail.com.