Your paradigm of an alligator, if you happen to have one, is likely of a large, aquatic, mostly solitary reptile, according to a statistic I just made up.
If you’re at all like me, you also think they’re kinda scary, when you remember to think of them at all. As someone who’s only just learning about alligators, I have to constantly remind myself of the possibility of an alligator whenever I kneel down at the edge of a pond or marsh here in the Southeast.
The Georgia coast and Florida are rich in ‘gators. There are large gators and baby-sized gators; gators who sun themselves and camouflaged gators and midnight-black gators; puddle gators and swamp gators and stealthy, silent-as-death gators; smiling, don’t-you-want-to-pet-me gators and American Coot-eating gators; and just this past weekend at St. Marks NWR, I can add to my list: bellowing gators; and… well, very many gators.
Alligators aren’t an everyday worry for me here in the city, so a lot of the year is pretty shy on them. But when we travel south looking for ducks here for the winter, the gators make their presence known, taking up residence on banks and logs, near salt water and brackish, flowing and still. They are one of my very favorite surprises of living in the South, though it takes a certain amount of caution to enjoy them. If you want to be safe, loving alligators from a distance is a good place to start.
And that bellowing sound they make… the closest thing I can liken it to is a motorboat that’s slow to start.
Ever heard it?