Florida and Alligators – A Love-Hate Relationship

Last week was a very negative week for the Sunshine State and particularly for Orange County (Orlando) with the mass assassination at the Pulse nightclub and the killing of a two year old Nebraska boy by an alligator at the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa at Disney World.

I’m sure many people were shocked there were alligators in a man-made lake, the Seven Seas Lagoon that millions cross every year to get to the Magic Kingdom.  How can this be?  The reality:  If it is fresh water and its Florida – there are gators.

Long time Floridians know that June is the end of the alligator mating season which starts in April with the loud bellowing of male gators in search of females and the romance cycle continues in May and sometimes June.  The development of Florida into the third most populated state in the nation has put both man and gator at greater risk. Male alligators in particular will travel across Interstate highways and golf courses to locate that lucky pond with a female gator.

FLORIDATRAVELER alligator-copcar.grid-lachua co sheriff ic may 2016

May 2016: in mating season gators can be mean-spirited.

May and June is a dangerous time for small dogs and even cats whose owners reside alongside Florida lakes.  Nighttime is when gators come out to eat and all across the Deep South you can floodlight the nearest canal and be surprised to see the shiny eyes of alligators staring at you.  There is a good reason to build seawalls if you live on a Florida canal.

There are 1.3 million gators in Florida and almost 20 million people.  The fact that there are just one or two fatal gator attacks in Florida each year on the average is a statistic that shows that gators usually avoid humans and are mainly active at night.

FLORIDATRAVELER sarasota gator and tourist

Sarasota statue spoofs Florida icons of old people, gators, and crime.

Florida and alligators have a strange love-hate relationship going back to the earliest paintings of Florida made by French artist Jacque le Moyne in 1564 at the colony of Fort Caroline on the St Johns River.  LeMoyne was shocked to see the Timucuans clearing the land and killing what Le Moyne viewed as giant creatures.  Of course, explorers wanted to see these gators when they saw the art work.

FLORIDATRAVELER jacques-le-moyne-hunting-crocodiles-from-brevis-narratio-1563

Florida gators were never 40-foot monsters.

Alligators have played a key role in the promotion of Florida as a tropical and exotic place.  By 1900 there were thirty alligator farms in Florida since it was easy to catch gators and stick them in a pit and charge admission.  To boost sales, we got gators to jump for fish and hired Seminoles to wrestle gators.

FLORIDATRAVELER alligator frame postcard

The gator became the mascot of the University of Florida.   The gator became a popular symbol on Florida souvenirs.  Now we eat alligators at many Florida restaurants.  Gator tastes like chicken.  Gator meat is low in fat and cholesterol and high in protein. It is available in a variety of cuts including tail meat fillets, ribs, and kids meal nuggets.   My wife would like us to eat all the gators in Florida.

FLORIDATRAVELER UF Albert_and_Alberta

 Go Gators! But stay out of my backyard!

But alligators have been around since prehistoric times.  They are survivors and removing them from a lake is a difficult task.   Some new gators might show up the next mating system for bull gators drive the smaller male gators to look for new places to stay – like your backyard pool.

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About floridatraveler

Historian and travel writer M. C. Bob Leonard makes the Sunshine State his home base. Besides serving as content editor for several textbook publishers and as college professor, he moderates the FHIC at www.floridahistory.org
This entry was posted in attractions, conservation, disney, environment, Florida Food, florida history, florida vacations, Recreational Experiences, travel, Walt Disney World, wdw and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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