A Unique Vacation Adventure
Well, in Florida, we did not exactly go swimming with the alligators – but we did visit an Alligator Farm where there were hundreds of alligators, and we also took an air boat into the Everglades where we saw many in the water as well.
Although we saw some very large alligators, we also saw 3-month-old baby alligators that were only about a foot long. We were told that they’ll eventually grow about a foot per year. The largest alligator ever found was 19 feet long, and the oldest one lived to be around 76 years old.
What interesting creatures they are! They bask in the sun until their skin is ash-like and dry-looking from the mud in the river, and they can stay still without even moving their eyes for hours… until it’s time to eat, of course, and then there’s a big frenzy.
Now, understand that these animals are wild, but they are welcome to come to the Farm anytime they want, to eat or to rest on the beach.
They were right in front of us with just a small fence in between us.
At one point, they were so still I thought they were simply statues, and that we were just being fooled, but then someone came in with a big bucket of chicken and started feeding them one at a time. He would call out to one who would approach the fence and jump up to get his prize, snapping his snout shut with a big clash of his teeth.
At one point the man feeding them had his hand just a half inch from the inside of the alligator’s mouth. So you think he was scared? Oh no, he would scratch the alligator under his chin as if he were his pet!!
The alligators all knew they were going to be fed, so they didn’t fight among themselves at all. Each one would wait for his or her turn.
If the food fell on the ground, an alligator would move his huge head to the side, find the dropped morsel, and eat it in one gulp. They never chew their food, so if alligators can’t eat food in a single bite, they’ll allow the food to rot, or they’ll bite at a large piece and then spin or convulse wildly until they’re able to tear off bite-sized chunks.
Of course, alligators are wild animals, and my expertise is geared more toward pets, but I found them to be intelligent and serene. Their only concerns are to survive and “chill out.” They try to conserve their energy as much as possible, so they don’t need to eat too often. They understand hierarchy, and they recognize the humans who feed them.
Ultimately, I learned they’re not as vicious as the news sometimes makes us believe, but we do need to respect their boundaries. I now have a better understanding of them, with more respect and less fear. Still, I don’t think I’ll be going swimming with them anytime soon!