Monday, February 9, 2009

Swim with Caution

I would never think of swimming with alligators. Which isn't to say that I haven't been in the water with them. I've been in canoes and have had them swim under me. I've waded in thigh high water with them nearby. But I won't swim with them. When I was 3 years old, a 16-year old girl was attacked and drowned while swimming in this pond at Oscar Sherer State Park in Osprey, Florida. That was 35 years ago. Since that time there have been 20 other fatalities from alligator attacks in the United States.

During school outings and community events over the next few years, that fatality would haunt me. Alligators were few and far between in the 70's. They were endangered and numbered around 10,000 in the state compared to their historic numbers which have been estimated to be 4 million in Florida alone. But it hadn't occurred to me that this was a rare incident - an unfortunate accident. In my head, alligators were bad and this was a bad park.

When you consider that 40,000 people are murdered annually in the United States, it puts into perspective the causalities from alligators, let alone any wild animal. That's not to say that we should ignore the threat, but respect the animal and its natural behaviors. Typically people are too big for an alligator to consider as a meal, but on rare occasions they bite off more than they can literally chew. In fact alligators can't even chew. They chomp. But I digress. Today there are more people in Florida than ever and alligator populations are estimated at around 2 million. That means more alligator and human interactions.

At least 13 of the 21 fatalities from alligator attacks happened while swimming. When you swim you tend to splash and thrash. An alligator may perceive it to be an wounded animal - an easy meal. I don't swim with caution around alligators. I just don't swim around alligators at all.

8 comments:

  1. Is your blog about alligators or swimming. Do you actually swim? Or do you not swim with alligators.Is this sort of like how food items today list non-ingredients. Like "No MSG." "No high fructose corn syrup" Do you actually swim at all or just alude to the fact that you may swim but wouldn't swim if something may try to eat you. Do you feel the same way about sharks? Or would you be more fearful of lets say an airboat?

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  2. Have you ever seen me in the water?

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  3. I believe you failed to mentioned that you DO in fact swim with manatees!
    -Fireflower

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  4. Try Swimming with Manatee poop. Never saw a Manatee once we were in the water. I was also wearing a wet suit that we think was made of Kevlar.

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  5. Pete also swims with piranhas, and he didn't even noticed

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  6. I didn't know I was swiming with piranhas though...I did know there were Caiman which are like little Alligators.

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  7. Alligators freak me out. I know I've been in the water with sharks countless times, and that doesn't bother me. But alligators . . . get me out of there and fast.

    I remember being on an airboat tour out at Micanopy Park and having the guide say that at night there are only two things moving in the water - alligators and alligator food. I took that to heart.

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  8. Thanks for your comments, it was a big party of Roseate Spoonbill in Echo Pond, Flamingo.

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