Left Coast/Right Coast – Why I love alligators and other animal adventures

I’ll admit I have a fondness for alligators. Why? Well let’s start with extinction and survival. Sixty five million years ago a large meteor hit the earth ending most life. But the alligators survived virtually intact.
Mike Gold is a retired entrepreneur providing his views on the Northwest. Photo credit: Katie Stearns.

Mike Gold writes for the News of Mill Creek on a regular basis. He is a retired entrepreneur and describes himself as a, “relatively recent transplant to the West Coast. I have lived (born and raised) in the Northeastern U.S. So these observations are based upon ‘living the dream’ in the Pacific Northwest.”

Alligators: What’s the connection between alligators and the Pacific Northwest? Well, visitors all over the U.S. bring back baby alligators from trips South. They grow until they’re too big to keep at home. Some owners let them loose wherever they happen to live. New York City has an urban legend that suggests there are monster alligators loose in the sewer systems. Whenever someone’s dog or small child disappears, it is often blamed on these loose alligators.

Sometimes, the urban legend is true. (See next:) The Urban Legend is True. And although I am unaware of any alligators crawling out of Seattle sewers, it is possible. So watch yourself next time you hear a hissing sound coming from under your car.

I’ll admit I have a fondness for alligators. Why? Well let’s start with extinction and survival. Sixty five million years ago a large meteor hit the earth ending most life. But the alligators survived virtually intact. They have not changed in a couple hundred million years. Now some might suggest they have not “evolved." They still have a small apricot sized brain. But if you look up the dictionary definition of intelligence, you will read: “ability to adapt.” So I argue alligators must be far more intelligent than we are.

If you watch this short video, I think my case is well made. There are those famous last words: “hey guys watch this!” This looked like a good thing to do.

Likewise, this alligator wrestler in Florida “seems” to know what he’s doing. Again, This also seemed like a good idea at the time.

We lived in south Florida for six years. Our home was as far west as you could go without being in the Everglades. At the end of our street, you could walk across a small dam and you were in the Everglades. This area was full of poisonous snakes, alligators, panthers and lots of other harmful creatures. I used to love to cross the dam and just sit and watch.

All day, alligators would swim by looking for their next meal. They are ambush hunters. Their eyes and snout are on top of their heads so they can remain just at the surface of the water with 99% of their bodies submerged. And they are black so you can’t see them until you are on top of one. Whoops, there goes another live “meal”. Also, they don’t actually chew. What they do is swallow their prey whole. If they take a live creature, it is too fresh to eat. So they drag the creature down, drown it, then stuff it under a log to let it marinate for a few days. Then they go back and have a meal.

You just have to love how these creatures live. For about 20 years, they were considered an endangered species and it was not permitted to hunt them. However, they staged a fantastic come back and today they are all over Florida.

The most common collision between people living in Florida and alligators occur when the gator wanders into someplace that 10 years earlier had been part of their habitat, now a reclaimed swamp with new houses built on it. The car owner comes out and gets into the car and hears a hissing. I thought my tire had a leak in it,” is what the police are told.

Then the dumber ones (I’m talking the people not the alligator) will sometimes attempt to catch them or “rehabilitate” them. (Do they think they are going to undo 100 million years of evolution by talking nicely to the gator?) That’s when arms and legs disappear.

The other interesting thing in the Everglades is the rise of tens of thousands of large non-venomous pythons. They originally entered the Everglades eco-system when people brought them home as pets, then “surprise” the snake grew to be 8 feet or longer and they were released into the “glades.” They have no natural predators so they have flourished to where they are now a larger nuisance than alligators.

In fact in some cases, pythons have eaten large gators “whole.” See this image: I ate too much! There have been a few cases where a large python has made its way into the sewer system and surfaced in someone’s toilet. Imagine sitting down to read a book when you hear a hissing sound and are surprised when something bites down on a tender part of your anatomy.

So, while I love alligators, you have to respect them. It is not clear, based upon the videos I’ve shown you, which of the two species, humans or gators, are the more intelligent.

Other Animal Adventures: There are rattlesnakes in the Pacific Northwest. Venomous snakes but the venom does not often kill, it just makes you very sick. The old joke is when you get bitten on the butt by a rattlesnake, you find out who your friends are. (See you have to suck out the venom immediately.) How does one get bitten on the butt by a rattler? Easy, you tromp off into the bushes to do a nature call. As you squat down behind a bush, you forget to look down first. Bad mistake!


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