Be Aware! Alligators Present

An excerpt from my March 10, 2015 Okefenokee Nature Journal:

Caution Alligators Present warning sign in the Stephen C Foster State Park; Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia. March 10, 2015. © Please don’t steal my images. Download and use legally from

Tuesday, 6:35 PM – As the fading light of dusk was about to force us to our tent site, a couple walking up the road said, “There is a gator behind the boat barn. But be careful; he’s out of the water and he is biiiiigggg.” We walked the quarter mile to the end of the cul-de-sac and past the bold “Be Aware Alligators Present” sign. We looked around the left side of the shed; nothing. As we came around the right… “Whoa! That is a big one!” He was sprawled out on the grass with his feet facing upwards. He must have fallen asleep sunning himself, for the sun had gone down an hour ago. He was turned away from us, so we snuck up close behind him. There was no sign of movement, not even of breathing. Wondering if he was dead, I felt the temptation to grab the end of his tail, but figured that was the kind of thing that gets one in the news.

A large American Alligator asleep at dusk in Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia. ©

We decided just to head back and check if he would still be there in the morning. As we walked back to camp, we half-jokingly discussed how we’d get a nine foot gator back home to skin and tan. We spent the last two hours safely away from the sting of the mosquitoes in our tent playing battleship, reading, and planning the next two days. The night air cooled well enough for sleeping, and we fell asleep to the hoots of the Barred Owls. I awoke a few times that night; once to repeated rustling and light footsteps in the leaves outside our tent.

Published by William Wise

Hi, I’m conservation photographer and nature writer William Wise. Nature journaling and wildlife photography has been a favorite pastime since the ‘90s. I graduated from University of Georgia Warnell Forestry School's wildlife program in 1996. I'm currently an animal shelter manager/photographer and reside in Athens, Georgia, USA with my wife and two teenage daughters. My website is a wildlife and birding photo website documenting the beauty, design and wonder of creation. I have a deep love of the Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia. I became a devoted Christian in 1993 under a campus ministry while studying wildlife biology. My love of the outdoors quickly turned into a love for the Creator and His works. Creation Speaks is my teaching ministry that glorifies our Creator and teaches the truth of creation. I am also a guest author at Lee's Birdwatching Adventures and The Creation Club. The theme of my blogging comes from The Message version of Psalms 104 -- "What a wildly wonderful world, God! You made it all, with Wisdom at Your side, You made earth overflow with your wonderful creations."

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