Thursday, January 23, 2014

Florida Gators

After spending a few days in Florida last week I realized what I miss most about living there. The beaches are nice, the sky is pretty amazing compared to California's, but nothing beats the huge reptiles that are capable of eating you whole.

When I was a kid we actually had drills teaching you what to do if you happened to get chased by one. I remember learning that you should run in a zigzag pattern and not trust in your climbing abilities. We told each other that gators could outrun humans on level ground (not true - the big ones can only achieve about 11 miles an hour, tops) and that they could scale chain link fences and park benches (that part is true, they really can climb if motivated, they're just not motivated very often).

Darn gator refused to cross the creek to say hi.

In truth, gators don't really eat people. I never knew anyone who got even a nip, and I knew an awful lot of foolhardy people. Every once in a while a small dog would get consumed, but even that was rare enough that it made the papers. Mostly you heard about tourists feeding them marshmallows and living to tell the tale. I never did figure out why marshmallows were considered gator treats, but it seems to be an idea that pervades the South. The last time I was in Louisiana I heard about people there doing the same thing.

So if they don't eat people, and marshmallows aren't allowed any more, what do they eat? Mostly small fish. Well, small compared to them, anyway. And the occasional bird, small mammal, or frog. Sometimes they even eat invasive fish that shouldn't be anywhere near Florida, as captured in the image below. In my book that's more than enough reason to hug the next gator you see.

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