A 2015 encounter with a mother alligator and her babies in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge reminded me of the first time I heard that “chirp” in the wild…
January, 1997 – A shallow, circular pond reflected the tall Longleaf Pines that lined its perimeter. A solitary, sluggish alligator floated on the waters, too cold to pull herself out to bask. The medium sized gator was a mother gator surrounded by several small babies.
As we cautiously approached the edge of the water, within grabbing distance of one colorful black and yellow banded baby, we heard “the chirp”. I had only heard this cute little squeak on documentaries. It was something quite exciting to hear for the first time in the wild.
As the babies continued their alarmed chirping, mom swam closer and elicited a deep, forceful hiss, ending her approach with a feigned lunge that backed us off. Had it been warmer, she may have more aggressively defended her brood and not allowed us such a close approach.