Twenty-two years ago and it is hard to believe it has been that long, I saw the Everglades for the first time. It was an amazing experience. I have been back once, but that has been several years ago also.
I remember when we first arrived and started walking around, we heard a very strange sound. It was almost like a loud chirping. At first I thought it may have been a thousand frogs, or like the cacophony you hear from crickets on a very hot night. Then we thought perhaps that strange sound came from birds.
Finally we were told that they were the mating calls of the alligator. There were dozens and dozens of them, and it was incredible to see them in their natural habitat.
We saw them in the water, lying in the grass below us as we walked on the trails, even on the side of the trails, and the whole time, those loud chirping calls echoed everywhere...
The coastal plains of the southeastern United States are home to most alligators, who live in both natural and man-made fresh water lakes, ponds and wetland areas.
A bit ungainly out of water but they are great swimmers. That's not to say they can't move fast so don't be deceived. I read on one of the information boards nearby that they can shoot out of the water like a porpoise.
The males are between 10-15 feet (3 to 4.6 meters) in length and can weigh 1,000 pounds (453 kg). Females grow to a maximum of 9.8 feet (3 meters).
Facts about alligators:
There are over 200,000 alligators in the Everglades, but over 1.5 million in the state of Florida.
As solitary reptiles, you will rarely see alligators in groups, except during the spring mating seasons. They lay 30 to 40 eggs which incubate for approximately 60-65 days, and produce hatchlings 8-10 inches long.
The jaws of a gator have over 1,000 pounds of closing pressure!
Each alligator has approximately 80 teeth at any time. When they wear down or are lost in battle, they are replaced with new teeth. An alligator can go through 2,000 to 3,000 teeth in a lifetime.
Gators live approximately 30 to 35 years in the wild, and can live past 50 years in captivity.
The main diet of a gator consists primarily of fish, but they will also feed on turtles, mammals, snakes and birds.
Often you will see only the alligator's head in the water, not its body. This allows them to more easily strike their prey, such as fish, without being detected.
Alligators regulate their temperature by moving out of the sun and into the shade, where they rest with their mouths open to release stored heat. They also cool off by going into the water.
Because of legal protection, alligators are no longer endangered. They are, however, still classified as threatened to insure their continued protection and that of the endangered American crocodile.
The above information, and more, came from this site, and though we did not go on an airboat ride, it is on our list for whenever we go back.
They are fascinating to watch and fit into my category of absolutely magnificent, but like any wild animal we must never take them for granted. Don't get too close if you can help it. I know, I am preaching to the choir but I saw first-hand people within a few feet standing way too close, even with their children, for those photo ops.
I have heard and looked at photos of unexpected alligators in people's gardens, on the golf course, just about anywhere where there is water. If you live in alligator country I would be very interested to hear your story of any encounters you have had.
Stay safe, stay healthy and thanks for looking.