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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

“Not much meat on her,
but what's there is choice".
~ Pat and Mike, 1952

Government researchers estimate there are between one and two million alligators in the state of Florida. At my house, we call that a ‘guess-ti-ma-tion’. Alligators live in Florida’s marshes, rivers, swamps and lakes and are found in all 67 counties. Growing up to 14 feet in length and weighing as much as 1,000 pounds, a gator on your back porch or in the Publix parking lot can ruin your day.

Surprisingly, (or maybe not) there have only been 351 recorded attacks on humans in the past 58 years. Until recently, there had been only 18 fatal alligator attacks in Florida since 1948. Let’s put this into perspective....

In the past 30 years, approximately 300 people have died from being struck by lightning in the state of Florida.

This past May, my sister in law contacted me to say she and her kids would be visiting from California in mid-July. Central Florida had recently had an epidemic of fatal alligator attacks and her husband was wary of letting them vacation in our Sunshine State. During one week in May, three women had been victims of alligator attacks!

A jogger was killed along a Florida canal near Ft. Lauderdale and was believed to have been stalked by the alligator before he attacked and killed her. Another woman's body was found in a lake north of St. Petersburg, both arms having been torn off. She had been in the water for three days. In a third alligator attack, a 23-year old woman was killed by a nine foot alligator while snorkeling in Lake George near Ocala.

Last week, a 74-year-old Punta Gorda woman beat off a 5 foot long alligator which had attacked her while she worked in her garden. Finally, yesterday on the six o’clock news, a heart-broken gentleman was explaining how an alligator had eaten one of his two dogs during a late afternoon walk. “He opened his mouth like this,” he said, doing the two armed ‘gator chop’ so well known in Gainesville. (I think dog collars with alligators on them are incredibly tacky).

We’ve moved into their space, they are fighting back.

Safety Tips (you only need two and they are simple ones)

● Leave alligators alone. During mating season (May to June) don’t go near any body of water not salty or chlorine treated. (This may not always be true as alligators have been found in backyard swimming pools).
● Make your dog leave alligators alone. Alligators eat fish, snakes, turtles, small mammals and birds, but prefer domesticated dog. It tastes like chicken.

I can’t write about alligators without being reminded of my favorite Thunderbirds episode, appropriately named, Attack of the Alligators. Let me set it up for you…......
In a house on the Ambro River, scientists have developed a chemical that when consumed by animals can make them grow to huge proportions. They plan to use it to end a food crisis but Culp, their boatman, has other plans. When the theramine is accidentally poured into the swamp the scientists find themselves under siege by three gigantic alligators...

This sounds remarkably like an idea I once had for a sci-fi script,
but let’s not go there.

I don’t think I can end this without mentioning my favorite reptile, Gomek. Okay, yes, I know I am cheating, but I can’t help it. Gomek was a salt-water crocodile, but he lived at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm. Even stuffed, as he has been since his death in 1997, Gomek is still incredibly creepy.

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