Assailed By Alligators

American Alligator laying on bank of Suwannee River Sill in the Okefenokee Swamp. Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia, USA. October 25, 2022. ©

My friends at church ask how I could dare to paddle the Okefenokee – especially alone! – with so many “monstrous alligators” lurking about. In my machismo, I’d love to feed the impressions of danger and dread by those not familiar with gators; fantasies conjured by dramatic YouTube videos and sensational news stories. But the truth is, those alligators don’t really pose that big a threat!

Thousands upon thousands of alligators live at peace alongside people. The American Alligator can be found in ten states. Kent A. Vliet writes, “In fact, the alligator’s range includes four of the top ten most populous states in the United States.” Yes, they do congregate in our wildlife refuges and parks, but they can also be found without incident in neighborhood water retention ponds, roadside ditches and at times seem to be quite fond of golf courses! For those who live within the range of the alligator, they aren’t the sharp-toothed predators lurking in the dark waters always ready to kill. They are simply another part of the landscape and get about as much notice as a local park Mallard. 

So while I’d love to tell folks some heart-pounding stories of my adventures through the Okefenokee Swamp while being assailed by fierce crocodilians, that just has never been the case. Most of the time, if they are brave enough to even stay in sight, they simply watch me drift by as I watch them. But that doesn’t make a good story!

  • Vliet, Kent, and Wayne Lynch. Alligators: The Illustrated Guide to Their Biology, Behavior, and ConservationIllustrated, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2020.

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