Baby Alligator Refuge

A baby American Alligator finds a safe place to hide under yellow bonnet lily pads in the Okefenokee Swamp. Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia USA. March 12, 2015. ©

A shadowed, meandering channel runs just north of Billy’s Lake in the Okefenokee. It is the Middle Fork of the Suwannee River. This narrow waterway is barely wide enough for the john boats to pass. If it weren’t for the refuge staff, it would soon close in, choked by floating Spatterdock, pickerelweed and tangled branches draped with Spanish Moss. The giant alligators tend to avoid these choked waters. So there isn’t much to see… or is there?

These denser, darker places devoid of larger gators make them the perfect place for a mother to raise her young (for a large alligator will actually eat the smaller gators). Only six to eight inches at birth, these tiny reptiles are hard to see. If the kayaker has keen enough eyes, they just might pick out bright yellow bands of a baby alligator’s tail amongst the green and yellow bonnet lilies.

A patch of sunlight might pass through and reach the occasional fallen log prompting the juveniles to climb from the cool swamp waters into the warmth. But being so tiny, a stiff lily pad will serve as a suitable basking sight.  All the while mom stays close by to protect her brood.

iNaturalist observation:

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