I was rummaging through some old photos this weekend when I came across a photo my mom sent me back in 2002. She is the manager of two beautiful resorts on Sanibel Island, Florida, which is a stone's throw from where I grew up. Sanibel is known for having lots of Florida wildlife and it's hard to spend any time there without seeing an alligator.
It's typical to see gators sunning themselves by the side of ponds or floating around in the pond. Locals don't blink an eye at a sleeping gator, but the tourists get downright giddy. We get our fair share of gators here in Central Florida, but they're so much more prevalent on Sanibel.
This leads to the photo. (You can click on any of the photos to make them bigger.) One of the problems of having so many gators is that inevitably they'll need to do like a chicken and cross the road. This causes a bit of drama when you have tourists with tasty-children walking along the side of the road. My mom caught wind of a gator on her property and walked out front to take a picture of the cops trying to steer it off the road and into a pond.
There are some interesting things to note about this photo. First is the size of the gator. I made marks to show you where the side of the road is in comparison to the gator. If the average lane is about 10 feet wide, how big would you say this gator is? I'd say a good 10 feet.
Do you see the weapon that the cop has in hand? He has a hollow plumbing pipe. I guess he's going with the "10-foot-pole" philosophy when it comes to gators. I can guarantee you that if that gator ran toward that cop he would drop the pole and run, like any normal human being should.
Now notice the car coming in the other direction. You can assume that at that distance they can just see some people in the road with a large moving log. I imagine it's tourists on their way onto the island from the airport, map in hand, oblivious to the dinosaur speed-bump just seconds ahead on the road. And FYI, if you hit a gator while driving, your car doesn't really recover.
It might all seem quite entertaining until you realize that gators actually do occasionally eat pets and even people. I can think of many stories of gators eating pets and a couple of them eating people right there on Sanibel Island. They say that tourists want a photo op and will feed the gators, then the gators see a local a few weeks later and associate them with food and … well… it's not a pretty ending.
I'd say the average gator just wants to live out his gator life and leave people alone, but sometimes someone's pet is in the wrong place at the wrong time and looks appetizing. Since Florida opened up alligators to hunting a few years ago it's safe to say that humans still have the upper hand. I know that alligators taste like chicken… I wonder what alligators say about us?