Gator Gets Too Close for Comfort

Gator Gets Too Close for Comfort

After we moved to Florida in July, we discovered alligators living in the canal in our backyard, which was pretty cool and not totally unexpected. We’ve seen alligators off and on since then – infrequently enough that we all still come running when somebody yells, “Gator!” We give them a wide berth, however, because it’s illegal to “molest” the gators and we don’t want them to get too comfortable with humans. If they aren’t afraid of humans, that increases the chance they’ll get too close to a child someday and that can lead to a tragedy.

Frank is our resident critter catcher, and has been since he was very small. Animals are attracted to him and he can catch pretty much anything. If one of the cats brings in a mouse, we yell, “Frank! Mouse!!” If a bird gets into the house, we holler, “Frank! Bird!!” When Mittens brought in a live bat a few weeks ago, it was Frank to the rescue again. If we find a hurt or dead animal inside or out, Frank takes care of it. He is gentle and just a bit too curious for his own good but he’s really good with animals – domestic and wild – so, like I said, he’s the resident critter catcher.

Just a couple of weeks ago, he managed to get close enough to a wild armadillo outside that he was able to pick it up before it panicked and slipped out of his hands. It was wet because Frank had leaned down and pulled it out of the canal where it was swimming. We’d been watching it try to find a way to place to crawl over or around the canal wall for over half an hour and the poor thing was starting to get tired. When Frank came back inside, I shrieked at him to wash his hands, fearing leprosy.

When Frank was three or four years old, he got bit by an ostrich at a nursery in Texas. Two weeks later, he got bit by a donkey at a farm and the donkey wouldn’t let go. I had to wrestle his hand out of the donkey’s mouth (yes, I’m sure that was entertaining to watch) and I swear his hand was almost flat when I got it out of there. Frank didn’t cry. He almost never cried when he was little (still doesn’t – ha ha) to the point that we thought for awhile that his nerve endings didn’t extend to his skin’s surface, or something bizarre like that. Once, Ali pushed Frank off a fold-out sofa when he was about three and his leg got ripped open. He required 11 stitches and he never shed a tear. He’s had more stitches and broken more bones than all the other four kids combined.

Factor in Frank’s daring personality with wild animals and his love of photography and sometimes he doesn’t make the best decisions. Yesterday, it was raining when Frank got home from school. While he was talking to me in the living room, he glanced out the window, and said, “Gator.” He then went outside to take pictures but I wasn’t worried because there was no way he was going to get close enough to it to get hurt….right? A few minutes later, Max sounded the warning. “Mom, the gator’s getting closer to Frank.”

I looked out the window and ACK!! Frank was sitting on the side of the canal with his camera, clicking one photo after another, and the gator was now only 10 feet in front of him, looking right at him. I quickly put on my shoes and walked outside. I approached slowly because I didn’t want to scare it into jumping out of the water and making an appetizer of Frank’s fingers or toes.

I came closer and the gator went under the water, thank goodness. By that time, Max had also come outside, and was taking pictures with his own camera. While I was looking out, scanning the water in the distance to see where the gator would come up, it came up RIGHT IN FRONT OF US!



Don’t worry. I yelped so sharply when I looked down that the gator took off. We haven’t, nor would we ever, feed an alligator but I read that ones who have been fed by people will approach humans so perhaps someone has fed this one. Nuisance gators here are caught and destroyed so I’m hesitant to contact the authorities. He was just a wee little thing, no more than four feet long. I’m just glad we made the decision early on, when we first discovered our neighbor reptile friends, to only let Max (age 9) and Mason (age 5) play in the lanai when they’re outside. I had NO idea one might actually come within inches of us!

Frank zoomed in and got this great shot before the gator got too close for comfort:



Hugs to all,
Angela

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