While the Orlando community was still reeling over the terrorist attack in their own backyard, they were knocked down once again. Everyone wants to point fingers but, in truth, it was a horrible tragedy affected by a series of events, lack of education on Florida habitats and lack of respect for said habitat.
The word “alligator” is an English form of the Spanish words el lagarto meaning lizard in which early Spanish explorers so named the gators.Unlike crocodiles, alligators are only native to the China and southeastern US states from Texas to Georgia, the majority inhabiting Louisiana and Florida with over a million gators in each state. In fact, Southern Florida is the only place where both alligators and crocodiles co-exist.
American alligators live in freshwater wetland environments. When the weather turns cold, they dig out large holes and remain dormant in these holes until the climate has warmed. These are often dug into the mud which fills with water. After vacating these holes, the areas are used by other animals for shelter. Alligators will usually rest during the day and feed at night hanging along the edge of water in the reeds.
An average alligator weighs almost 800 pounds and can grow up to fourteen foot long with the largest registering over nineteen feet. In spite of their large bodies, an alligator is capable of swimming up to twenty miles per hour and running in short bursts up to eleven miles per hour making it easier to catch prey. Most of their prey is something they can kill in one bite but they can kill larger animals by dragging them into the water and drowning them.
The muscles to close alligator jaws are extremely powerful but they lack the strength needed to open their jaws again. Often a grown man is able to hold the mouth of an alligator shut.
Alligators bear a long snout with nostrils facing upward at the end allowing them to breathe while the rest of their body is underwater.
They are generally afraid of humans and will try to leave. Unfortunately, some people have tried to feed these wild animals which causes them to be less afraid and more likely to attack humans which is why the practice is illegal in Florida even though some people still do it.
The type of food eaten varies on their age and size. The younger gators will often devour insects, fish and snails while their older and larger counterparts will muskrat, turtles, deer, birds and even other reptiles. They have even been known to attack dogs, panthers and black bear. They will eat nearly anything but have shown a preference for chickens and dogs.
May and June are alligator mating season which is when they are most dangerous and should be avoided at all cost.
Alligators have between 74 and 78 teeth in their mouth at a time and can go through 2,000 to 3,000 teeth in a lifetime.
A crocodile has a longer v-shaped head than an alligator and its fourth tooth sticks out. They can live in seawater and are more aggressive than alligators. They have a lighter appearance and can be found all over the world.
If you are in an area known to be inhabited by alligators, stay in sandy shallow water with no reeds close to you. Keep a special eye on young children and pets, keeping them away from grassy lakes and canals. Stay out of the water between dusk and dawn, Never, ever feed them and stay away from the area during mating season.
We could go around pointing fingers and casting blame, but in truth, death via alligator is often the result of many people and agencies not using common sense and not educating people about the danger. My hope is, as you read this, that, if I can save one life, it will not cause this child to die in vain. Pass it along to friends traveling to these regions.