Tuesday May 16, 2006

The thing about the alligators

sign: We Sell Smoked Alligator Original or Hot
Image by Frances Nash

Now don’t get any ideas – this isn’t going to be one of those we’ve been eating them for decades, it’s a wonder they haven’t started eating us sooner type of things. But what’s really going on with all these alligator attacks? Look. Gators have brains the size of a pea. They’re running on some ancient-ass instinctual behavior, and they’re designed to live in the swamp, not in a lake by some dumb UDB-pushing cookie-cutter development (actually, human beings aren’t designed to live like that, either, but I don’t want to digress). What’s more, they’re cold blooded, kind of like a solar panel – the warmer it is, the more energy they have to move around, and the more they have to eat.

But of course the alligators aren’t the problem – the problem is people. Remember the guy from Grizzly Man? He thought he was going to be friends with bears, and ended up getting his brain snacked on by a grizzly while his girlfriend watched. Well, that’s the same thing that’s happening for our whole species with the alligators. The solution is simple: stay the hell away from the gators, and especially don’t feed them. (When gators get used to being around people (and esp. if they associate us with food), the possibility of taking a bite out of our ass becomes to look pretty attractive to a hungry one.)

The problem with this approach is that everyone has to do it for it to work. Good luck there. Also, all the alligators that have already gotten used to people are not going to un-learn shit. So my alternate suggestion is to watch your ass. Forget the zig-zag running thing – it’s a myth (alligators don’t chase people). The key is to just stay the hell away from them. If you’re attacked, pound the crap out of their snout and eyes. Yikes. All that and more in this fun video:

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  1. Manola BBB    Tue May 16, 09:20 AM #  

    Finally, the definitive guide to dealing with gators!

  2. Jonathan    Tue May 16, 10:05 AM #  

    Good advice! No more nighttime swimming in canals for me.

  3. Mister Nice Guy    Tue May 16, 12:08 PM #  

    Me, I head out to the conservation areas with bags of meat parts and feed ‘em. I figure they’ll learn to trust human beings and pay more visits, maybe eat some dogs and cats. I hate dogs and cats. I ain’t too crazy about people, either.

  4. John Harper    Tue May 16, 12:10 PM #  

    Could be that over enthusiastic environmentalist unnecessarily put alligators on the endangered species list some 30 years ago that now there are just more alligators than EVER before?

  5. alesh    Tue May 16, 12:36 PM #  

    Well, they really were close to extinction for awhile. It’s possible to argue that alligator extinction would be a good thing, but I find that to be pretty offensive (and stupid).

    The real problem is that the low water levels make gators accumulate more densely in the remaining wet areas. So there’s more of them near people.

  6. Tere    Tue May 16, 02:04 PM #  

    I am seriously extremely terrified of alligators/crocs. Like, I refuse to visit the Everglades and soak in the beauty and wonder for fear that an alligator will find me and devour me before anyone even notices.

    And yet, there’s no way I could even entertain the thought of wiping them out, because that whole thing about the balance of nature? It’s true. Each and every species plays an important role that can screw everything up if it’s destroyed.

    Didn’t anyone see that episode of the Simpsons where Homer’s toaster is a time machine and he ends up with the dinosaurs and he sneezes, and he totally screws everything up?

  7. Manola BBB    Tue May 16, 03:31 PM #  

    Tere, you needn’t be freightened, although I strongly suggest you not visit the glades until the weather cools down. You’ll get eaten alive by worse yet—ravenous mosquitoes! There are plenty of viewing points in Everglades National Park where you can enjoy the scenery and not get close to gators. The first area is a raised wooden boardwalk, for example.

    What has happened is horrifying but these attacks are relatively rare. Driving in Miami is far more dangerous!

    I’ve always heard of small animals and children being attacked as they stood next to the water. The fact that these gators attacked adults is a little surprising, but one woman was snorkeling, which is a big no-no in Florida’s backcountry waters. It’s a shame, but I would never put so much as a toe in anything but the beach.

    The woman who was jogging is also confounding, because alligators never run after people. If that were the case, places like Shark Valley and Everglades National Park would’ve closed down ages ago. I’m thinking she was squatting by the canal or something … who knows. God rest all their souls.

    I’m not sure about the stats, but it would be interesting to see what percentage of attacks occur near human habitats as compared to attacks in more remote areas. I think those gators used to seeing humans might be less non-chalant than the ones who live deep in the park.

    I’ve had close encounters with gators in the park. I’ve fished with them (this particular one was a nuisance gator, as it kept following the cork and bobber back to the canoe.) I’ve paddled over them in mangrove tunnels. I’ve come near baby crocs, knowing mama is nearby. They really don’t give a damn about people, as food is plentiful.

    Also, it’s rare to see a croc in the glades. Most of them hang out in a preserve area near Turkey Point. I believe they are still considered endangered, not sure.

  8. Jonathan    Tue May 16, 07:10 PM #  

    -I have photos of a pretty big crocodile (I think) taken a couple of years ago on the bay shore in front of a Brickell condo. Around this time of year, so maybe also mating season. It didn’t eat anybody.

    -I hope gators don’t become extinct, but I think there’s good reason not to protect them using the kind of rules exemplified by the Endangered Species Act. ESA creates perverse incentives: you can’t profit from a listed species, but you have to bear the costs of protecting it if it’s on your land. There’s an incentive to dispose of any endangered animals before they are officially discovered on your property. I think it might be better to encourage the raising of gators and crocs for meat and hides. People take care of animal that have economic value to them, which is why cows and chickens are never going to become extinct.

  9. Defeded    Tue May 16, 10:45 PM #  

    The American Alligator is listed as “Similarity of Appearance to a Threatened Taxon” and the American Crocodile as “Endangered” (along with a handful of other crocs). But people could care less where I was born and bred. They have a whole gator jerky roadside industry there.

    I swam in plenty of lakes and springs growing up in Florida, and lived to tell. Not gonna let a few horny 10-footers stop me.

  10. The Python    Wed May 17, 09:39 PM #  

    I love gators. Live. Squirming.

  11. Paul    Fri May 19, 10:00 AM #  

    Nobody even mentioned the gator that tried to get on 836 earlier this week. I guess it wasn’t too out of the ordinary considering the fact that an overwhelming majority of people driving on the Dolphin Exwy. have pee–sized brains. And srry to be a smartass but solar panels produce less energy with increased temperature.

  12. NicFitKid    Fri May 19, 12:39 PM #  

    As I kid I used to go on trips to Shark Valley in the Everglades with my family, and it wasn’t uncommon to find a gator sunning itself on the bike path. If it blocked the whole path, we would all stop about fifty feet short and wait, and sometimes turn around. If it wasn’t blocking the path we’d just bike right past it. They hardly flinched.

    As far as the endangered thing goes, the season for gator trapping should probably be expanded and catch limits raised for gators caught within canals, retention ponds, and other management areas that act as highways into our fetid suburbias. No need to send out full-blown hunters into the wetlands, but we should control the critters that wander into our neighborhoods. And by the same token, hold the UDB where it is. Increased westward housing means increased gator contacts.

  13. NicFitKid    Fri May 19, 12:43 PM #  

    Oh, and what’s up with Todd Hardwick? Is Pesky Critters the only service of its kind down here? That dude sucks up all the media coverage when it comes to gators, snakes and other unusual Miami nuisance animals.

  14. alesh    Fri May 19, 01:24 PM #  

    I think you’re exactly right, Nic. My parents have been to Shark Valley more recently, and their description of it matches your memory.

  15. circuitmouse    Tue May 23, 05:20 PM #  

    I guesss this means I should paraphrase this as strictly hypothetical that my brother-in-law likes to take his …let’s call them passengers… in his squad car out to Loxahatchee and flashes his flashlight until he finds some gators staring back at him….