‘Gators! No Swimming Here …

If you don’t live full-time in Florida, the caution signs are disconcerting at first. For a day or so, you keep a close eye on the riverbanks and the water surface. You imagine what might happen if you fall overboard. You wonder how many teeth they really have.

But after a few days and several sightings, they become part of the backdrop. The ‘gators around here are pretty small compared to the ones I remember seeing in the Everglades. They really don’t want to tangle with us, and they avoid humans. But they are still carnivores. They eat fish, birds, other reptiles…and small mammals, so Boo stays inside the boat. And they have the capacity to chomp on large mammals too — i.e., me — if I happen to startle one. So I stay out of the water, which is hard for me to do in this humid heat. They don’t keep me off the water, though. I’m out daily in the dinghy or a borrowed kayak, and now I look for them. If I paddle silently, I can sneak up pretty close. I might even put in my paddle board, although I’ll wait until the weekend boating activity eases up. I don’t want a sudden wake to send me overboard into a startled jaw! I have good balance, but no need to test it that way. Photos of my ‘gator sightings, and other local wildlife, below.

These signs are posted all over Hontoon Island State Park. At first, I thought they may be an overstatement — you know, in case of lawsuits — but no, there really are a lot of ‘gators here.
I passed this little guy in the dinghy as he sunned himself not far from the park.
This one swam right up to the dock during the quiet of the morning. As soon as he saw movement, he disappeared.

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