Back to Nature (Published on TBNWeekly.com - Aug. 18, 2004)
Dinosaurs at our back doors
Florida residents recently acquired first-hand
knowledge and experience about what it takes to survive in a tropical climate. We
will survive. Batteries and flash lights 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
situation seriously. We learned respect, fear and awe of nature. Human Motto: Be
|Photo by Rick Tremmel
|Alligators are survivors and
are interesting to observe from a safe distance.
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
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 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
Alligators are usually between 6 and 16 feet in length, although any over 12 feet
is rare. They have a long powerful tail for swimming. 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
Large alligators will eat anything they can overpower. 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 digestion, they do not recognize the difference between domestic pets and
wild food sources. When they are hungry, alligators act on their hunting instinct
and might attempt to feed on your house pet if given the opportunity. It is not
uncommon in Florida to observe people walking their pets up to the waters
edge where ponds and lakes are clearly marked, BEWARE OF ALLIGATORS. These are the
same people that cry for the removal and extermination of the alligator when
Muffy or Mitsy becomes a nice, light snack.
It doesnt require the intelligence of a brain surgeon to ascertain who is at
real fault in this situation, does it? Some people dont use just plain, old
common sense when up against nature at her wildest. Alligators are prepared.
Alligators are opportunistic feeders; adults eat fish, turtles, wading birds,
snakes (including venomous snakes), frogs and small mammals they discover near the
shoreline of their habitat. Young alligators feed on small fish and aquatic
insects, but in turn, they can be food for raccoons, crabs, various types of wading
birds and fish. The ancient alligator deserves to be respected. Alligators do not
live in crisis mode. Thoughtfully, methodically, this skilled survivor
is prepared for almost any situation. Alligator Motto: We will survive. Be
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.
Some female alligators protect their young and may become aggressive if provoked.
A baby alligator should never be captured, even if the mother is not visible. She
may be watching you and decide to take action to protect her baby.
4. Keep your pets and children away from alligators.
5. Dont swim in areas that are known alligator habitats.
Want to see dinosaurs? Get out onto Floridas waterways via canoe, kayak or
slow moving boat. Navigate through wetlands, on lakes, rivers, swamps, and brackish
coastal marshlands and youll discover dinosaurs: the American alligator, back
Karen can be reached at MyMuddyPawsStudio@gmail.com.