Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Caution: Be-Aware of Gators

I had to get up early this morning, after working late last night due to work based shenanigans.

Mid running around, getting all the animals taken care of, dogs walked, chickens fed and iced (we put ice in their waters to help keep them cool) and listening to Kellogg our newest rooster try to crow (he sounds like the worlds tiniest, saddest fog horn at the moment) I hear the news that there was a gator attack last night.


Here's a link to the story: Alligator Attacks Toddler at Disney Hotel.

This is just *sad*. This poor family is on vacation and this happens. And I don't know, I started by thinking that this is a tragedy that is no one's fault, just a...matter of nature being nature, but I'm starting to think that maybe Disney could have taken some more precautions, warned people about the danger better. But this is just based on what I'm reading in the news, not first hand knowledge, and there may be warnings and precautions I'm not aware of.

Disney has signs everywhere that the water is not for swimming because no matter how hard you patrol and attempt to make a 'gator-free' zone, the truth is that gators can wander in. They get up and walk from water source to water source in certain climates and times of the year. And they can just swim into this area, from what I understand these aren't self contained lakes.

Gators are stealthy. It's kind of their thing.

Gators are *everywhere* in Florida. It's a fact of life.

Body of water? Probably a couple of gators in there. People who grow up here just get used to it? Even people who've lived here for years get used to the idea that it is not necessarily safe to just hop in that nice looking canal or pond. Doesn't stop us from doing it, mind you, but we're at least aware of the dangers of our own actions.

This family is from Nebraska. I don't know if they've ever been to Florida before, or if this was their first trip, but there is no way that they were properly aware of the danger or they wouldn't have had their toddler in the water. No one puts their child in danger intentionally.

The one and only time my grandfather ever hit me was when I ran toward a canal when I was probably about this little boys age. He caught me and spanked me and I'm not sure which one of us was more upset, but you can bet your ass I didn't go near a canal again for years - I wasn't one of the kids jumping in to swim because, well, it left an impression.

I'm sure they saw the signs and stayed in the shallow water because they thought that was safe, because the signs say 'No Swimming'. If the signs I've seen in the news articles are accurate, they don't mention gators, just ask the visitors not to swim please. I've never stayed at the Grand Floridian so I can't say from experience if there are other warning somewhere along the beach.

Would the family have acted differently if the signs mentioned there being gators in the water, even as a possibility? I think they would have.

The articles all quote the authorities as saying that they're still holding out hope, looking for the boy. But, honestly, they're not going to find him alive. They might not even catch the right gator, if it was just passing through. A gator might not be a crocodile, though we have those in Florida too now, and no ones quite sure how they got here, so isn't that exciting, but they're still deadly. They're predators.

Earlier in the month they found the body of a man in the mouth of a gator a bit further north of where I live. They're still not sure if the gator killed him or if the man died of other causes and the gator was just feeding opportunistically.

There's a better than good chance that somewhere along the line, this gator was fed by people. Maybe not even in the area where the attack happened, mind you. Gators who are fed loose their natural caution around people. They associate people with food. And that's where attacks happen. Not all the time, but enough that it's a known factor. There's a reason we're told not to feed the wildlife. 

They haven't caught the gator yet, but they've caught at least four others (adding to the tragedy is that they have to kill the gators they catch - not at all on the scale of losing your child, but just one more thing) in the area. The one that made the attack is supposed to be between 4 and 7 feet.

Let's say the average weight of a 4-foot gator is 240 lbs. A 7-foot gator might be 420 lbs. (All very rough estimates, mind). That's not 240 pounds of human. That's muscle. Prehistoric muscle. The parents tried to save their son, and miracles can happen, but the chances were never good. It's always weighted on the side of the gator.


  1. This story is so sad. I also wondered if the signs would have read "Gators may be in this water" if that would have stopped the family from allowing their child from playing in the water. Because "no swimming" signs in a hot climate just aren't harsh enough. I remember places I visited in Charleston, SC, had signs that mentioned the wildlife in the water, and I never was tempted to dangle my feet too cool off there.

    I actually wondered about your thoughts on this subject. So sad. Thanks for sharing, though.

    1. Please forgive all the typos and bad grammar above. Goodness!

    2. It's very sad. They found his body today. I'm not sure if that's better or worse than never finding it at all. He would still be dead either way, but (and I don't know what the body looked like) it might be harder to see what the gator left?

      I have to think that the mention of gators would have kept them from letting him play in the water. It's unthinkable to me otherwise. I know how closely we watch my god kids when we're anywhere near water and it's not because they don't know how to swim. They've both had lessons and can at the very least float on their backs long enough for someone to go get them.

      But a gator grabbing them is a whole different issue. People have wrestled pets out of the jaws of gators before, people have survived attacks sometimes without even losing a limb. But no one wants to take that chance. Not knowingly.

      I know that some other Disney resorts have signs that warn of gators in the water, so I'm not sure why this one wouldn't have the same.

  2. My family went on vacation to Orlando when I was in high school. I don't think I saw an alligator the whole time I was there. That was a fear I had the whole time, because I knew they're in the area and I'm afraid of everything. But I never actually saw one and so by the end of the trip was much more afraid of the tiny lizards that were everywhere than the actually dangerous alligators. (I have a phobia of reptiles and amphibians.)

    Just luck. I'm sure if I'd been there longer I would have seen more and would understand the dangers, but from my week there I was left with the impression that you don't really need to worry about alligators in populated areas. So I definitely think you're right about a family from Nebraska not understanding the risk. It just doesn't seem real if you don't live with that sort of thing. I think the assumption was probably that if alligators were a possibility, the area would be fenced off. Without that, the "no swimming" signs would seem to be more about threat of drowning, and he was in very shallow water with family close by. I'm sure they didn't think it was dangerous. It's so sad and scary to think that you can be doing everything right, as far as you know, and completely miss something like that.

    1. I never saw gators in Florida, but I did when Andrew and I went to Charleston, SC, years ago. Especially this place. I remember a there was a gator on the trail ahead of us, and a guide bonked him on the head with a thick stick and the gator moved on. :-O

      Also I've seen one sunning at Myrtle Beach. NOT in the ocean, but beside a restaurant off one of the main roads.

      Here is where we saw a bunch of alligators in Charleston.

    2. It depends on where in Florida you are, really, and certainly in more developed areas your chances of seeing a gator go down. They're naturally a more shy creature, as opposed to the crocodile, which is why I think a lot of people don't view them as a threat. Certainly we don't have the number of attacks places with crocodiles have, thankfully, but people die every year from a gator attack.

      And any wild animal, in the wrong circumstances, is dangerous. In the water, in their territory, with a gator that is hungry/has lost it's fear of humans/or is just plain irritated due to gator reasons is the wrong place to be.

      I live in the middle of nowhere, but I'm not particularly close to any major water ways or ponds, and we've had a small gator wander into the pond in our back yard several years in a row. They're using it as a kind of weigh station on their way to better hunting grounds, but they're still there. We had a 10-foot gator walk down our street several years ago.

      And the canal I grew up on had gators all the time.

      Heck, there's an annual swim across the harbor where I work and it's full of gators and the occasional shark. People swim it anyway. Because Florida.

      I do think this was just a horrific combination of events, and people are going to be afraid for a while, and then it will fade from memory until some one else winds up on the wrong end of a gator at the wrong time.


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