Birding with Alligators


I live in the northeast where there are, thankfully, no alligators (NYC sewer gators, notwithstanding) so when I come across them in my travels they always freak me out a little; it’s all that nature programming that shows them running with burst of speed at 30 MPH.  Of course, I have seen them in Florida, but it took me completely by surprise that there are alligators in Texas.  Call me naive.

I was walking along a boardwalk at Brazos Bend State Park when I noticed a cluster of folks blocking the trail.  As I stepped around them, I glanced over to see what the fuss was about and there was an alligator sunning itself on the bank.  gulp.  I hustled along the path.  By the time I had made the turn, I had seen several more in the water.  Interestingly enough, the birds did not care about the them at all.  There were flocks of Black-bellied Ducks standing on the bank, White Ibises picking in the shallows, American Pipits bobbing along the path.  But the gators eat birds, right?

Fed up with the rain, I was heading back to the car along a path between two of the lakes, when I heard a tiger roar.  Seriously.  That is what it sounded like.  A small pesky thought started bouncing around my head that it might be an alligator doing the bellowing.  With adrelinin pumping I started to walk more briskly down the path.  I fumbled in my pocket for the park map; I had noticed alligator etiquette tips on it.  Here they are in case you are somewhere without helpful tips on a map.

  • Do not annoy or feed the alligators
  • Keep pets on a leash no longer than 6 feet. Do not throw objects in the water for your dog to retrieve
  • Keep at least 30 feet from an alligator – do not assume they are slow-moving
  • Do not swim or wade in the water
  • If an alligator goes after a fish you have caught, cut the line and let the alligator have the fish
  • Avoid any alligator sunning itself in the middle of the trail or lake bank
  • Stay clear of grasses, twigs and/or soil near the side of a trail; it may be a nest and the mother alligator is probably close by guarding it.
  • If an alligator opens its mouth and hisses, you have come to close.  Retreat slowly, make no quick moves.  Keep your eyes on the alligator.

Be careful out there.



Filed under Travel

6 responses to “Birding with Alligators

  1. We go to Florida semi-regularly because my sister-in-law lives there. One year we took a air boat (is that what those things with the huge fan-like thing on the back are called?) ride and saw many alligators on the St. James (?) river. Since we were the only people on the boat, the driver (is that what you call a operator of a boat?) stopped and let us get out and walk in the shallow water. The alligator infested shallow water. I didn’t get out of the boat, but my husband and young children did. Scary, but they lived to tell the tale.

  2. Hey Cedar, I hear you and I am totally with you…in the boat.

  3. Howdee,
    Just spent the last three months birding in Florida.
    Lots of Gators. We didn’t bother them they didn’t bother us, but a few times we scared them into the water as we walked by.
    Met a fellow recently who has the nickname Gator bait. He is a canoeing guide. Was with a group. the water was low. Gator breeding season…he got between a male and his three females. Male didn’t like that… pushed the canoe up…while the guide tried to keep balance…Gator then took bite out of the side of Canoe…missing the guides hand luckily.
    Guide got away safely…shaken…
    Said the Gator if he had gotten a hold on him…would have taken him under the water to drown. then had a bite to eat.
    Yikes….we went canoeing with said Gator Bait…we saw gators…as we always do when around water here in Florida….
    mostly they were out of the water sunning.

  4. From the title of your post, I wasn’t sure if your birding companions were getting a bit short tempered, or if you saw some gators that were sprouting wings! It’s always wise to avoid them, no matter what. We have a friend whose daughter was killed by one. Respect those reptiles.

  5. People can be as ignorant with alligators as they are with bears. Leaving them alone assures we both will live longer.

  6. Heh. Welcome to Texas. Guess we should’ve warned you about the gators… 😉

    It’s been a while since I’ve been to Brazos Bend, but I do remember an affluence of alligators there. We see them periodically around the county, with so many rivers and bayous through the area. Those etiquette tips are right on spot, with the first one definitely the most important. ‘Cause if you annoy them, you might just end up feeding them whether want to or not.

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