Oh Florida: Gators

I’m used to having Bambie and Thumper running around my yard. Maybe having the occasional wild turkey teasing us by making an appearance on our deck the week before Thanksgiving.

What I’m not used to are the gators chilling in our pond and the birds that can practically eat me whole.

See, it goes without saying: If you get an animal used to getting food from people, it’s going to approach humans in search for food. So, when there are signs around warning you not to feed the gators, you should probably listen. Unfortunately, one visitor didn’t.

No, they’re not gator food.

Our complex had a couple of gators. One pond on the other side of the complex houses an eight-footer. Our side had something more like a five-footer. So, it wouldn’t really be able to eat you in one bite. Maybe their very young child. But adults were safe.

It’s not like feeding the duckies.

You take your kid/niece/nephew/sibling – whatever – to the park with some bread. It’s cute to feed the ducks (though, it’s dangerous for the ducks). But the birds aren’t going to bite off your hand, should you get too close. The gator will. And the gator will get comfortable around people like those ducks we feed. That doesn’t just mean danger for us – it’s dangerous for the animal, too.

Tastes like chicken.

This visitor took their small child outside – often enough – to feed the gator. The gator eventually got so comfortable around people that it actually lunged out of the water one day while I was walking with an acquaintance. They wanted to prove to me how friendly the thing was.

Gator is gone.

Pretty soon after, the gator was removed by gator control. And, wouldn’t you know it, that same person who fed the gator came wandering over one day with their small child, asking where the gator had gone. Hullo? So, my acquaintance calmly explained what had happened. The lack of remorse in the visitor was astounding.

“Prob’ly gatorbites down at the touristy areas.”

Yes. There are places here that sell fried gator. No, it probably didn’t end up on someone’s plate, drowned in tartar sauce. At least, I hope not. The poor thing was trained by this visitor to trust people. And it learned the hard way that sometimes, you just can’t.

It’s been about two years since we lost our scaly friend and we still haven’t gotten one to wander back into our side of the complex. Of course, we still get beautiful birds and funky looking ducks (we call the “divers”) – and the occasional bat at sunset. But all we have left of our gator is a rusting sign, reminding all tenants to refrain from feeding the gators.

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