Watch Your Step

An exciting tale from EA McIlhenny’s 1935 book, The Alligator’s Life History, where he describes stepping on a submerged alligator…

Young American Alligator swimming in the blackwater of the Suwannee River Sill Recreation area in Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia USA.  January 21 2021. ©

“The water was less than knee deep and the going good until I got almost half way across, then the bottom began to suddenly get soft, but thinking it was only a pot hole, I kept on, and in a few steps more was in slush up to my armpits. As I made another step I felt my foot strike something solid, and thinking it was the opposite side of the hole, raised my foot until I got something hard underneath and heaved myself up. I had just thought how nice it was to get out of the slush, when it seemed as if an earthquake had struck me, and my feet lost the bottom, the mud and water around me began to boil. I got a hard blow on one leg below the knee which I afterwards found was cut to the bone, and I was thrown violently to one side and went under. Fortunately, I did not lose my gun, and as soon as I could find my feet, lost no time in getting to the grass… What happened was a very large alligator had deepened the centre of this little pond for his den, and when I stepped on him, he threw me off his back and hit me on the leg with the side of his jaw. I don’t think for a minute he made any attempt to catch me, for he could have easily done so.”

​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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