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.

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