McIlhenny’s Mother Alligator

In his 1935 book, E.A. McIlhenny (of the Tabasco Sauce family) tells the story of an upset mother alligator nearly grabbing his head:

A mother American Alligator with babies on her back. Suwannee Middle Fork trail; Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia. March 12, 2015. ©

“​On another occasion, I had been shooting Upland Plover in late August, and I was riding back from the prairie over the road through the marsh connecting Avery Island with the highland, when I saw an old alligator with a lot of young ones crossing the road in front of me. I jumped off my horse, handed the reins and my gun to the boy who was with me, and began looking along the bank hoping to find some of the little ones. Close to the bank I saw four or five of them on the edge of the water against the grass. I lay down very foolishly and began crawling on my stomach, trying to get close enough to grab the little fellows without frightening them. The boy on the horse suddenly called out: “Look out for the big one, Boss.” I raised my head just in time to avoid the rush of the mother alligator, who, to protect her young, had risen to the surface and rushed at me, and but for the timely call of the boy, would undoubtedly have got me by the head, and that would have been the last of me, as she was a big one.” P 85

E.A. McIlhenny (1872 – 1949), of the McIlhenny Tabasco Sauce company, was a hunter, explorer and naturalist that established the Avery Island wildlife refuge on his family estate in Louisiana and wrote The Alligator’s Life History in 1935. While some of his statements are criticized by modern science, he was one of the most knowledgeable alligator experts in the country at the time. His work contains valuable information and entertaining anecdotes.

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