Saturday, August 27, 2005
Red Eyes At Night, Gator's Gonna Bite
Here follows a tale in which the names have been changed to protect the ...
About 4 years ago, this guy...we'll call him Smiley, walked down to his pond at night with the flashlight. At the time, Florida was in a drouty period and the pond had shrunk considerably. When water holes begin to dry up, gators will go on the move looking for wetter habitats. Smiley and his wife...we'll call her Patience, had noticed several gators crossing the road lately, in fact Patience had found it necessary to stop and let an 8 footer cross before she could proceed.
Smiley felt like he should check the small pond for gator visitors since the dogs swam at the pond daily and the kids played around the edge. On this evening, Smiley's flashlight beam revealed 2 glowing red eyes lurking near the willowy swampy end of the pond. Dang!
Smiley told Patience the news and said he would call the nuisance gator guys at the state. Turns out, gators too small to be a threat are low on their priority list for removal, especially in rural areas where gators actually belong. This little 4 1/2 footer wasn't going to eat anybody...this year, but they grow a foot a year for the first 6 years or so. Next year this guy might be dining on Lab...or worse.
So Smiley (whose name is NOT Patience for a reason) who has had some small amount of critter experience began his own gator relocation program. First Smiley studied his opponent's behavior. The gator was wary, but curious and would pop up when Smiley fed bread to the bluegills in the pond.
Smiley tried a stout fishing rod, strong line, and a large fishing lure. The gator grabbed the lure, rolled , the hook straightened, and the gator went back to the willows to pout. Score: Gator 1, Smiley 0.
Smiley tried tossing an old castnet over the gator as it sunned on the bank. Gators move really quickly. Score: Gator 2, Smiley 0.
Patience found Smiley's new found obsession amusing...Smiley did not.
As the pond continued to drop to historic muddy, knee deep water levels. Smiley knew his day had come. "Come Patience, we will seine the pond. Mr. gator will have no where to go with the water so low." Patience shook her head, muttered something like..."for better or worse" and agreed to help.
Smiley and Patience stretched the seine net across the pond and slowly walked it forward towards the opposite end. When the net reached the other end, it was full of fish and turtles, but no gator. He had slipped beneath the net and was floating a few feet behind them with a bemused expression. This happened over and over again.
Score: Gator 10, Smiley 0
Once Smiley and Patience almost had him, but did not have a great plan for grabbing him as he lept over the net between our two adventurers.
Score: Gator 11, Smiley 0
Finally, the gator got tired (the disadvantage of being an ectotherm), he had just had enough of this nonsense and made his first mistake...he left the water.
Up the bank and into a tangle of smilax vines went the gator. Up the bank and into the smilax vines went Smiley, yelling for Patience (who was not very by this time) to grab the old castnet.
Deep in the smilax Smiley was being cut to ribbons as he pursued his reptilian foe. Smiley finally came face to face with the gator, and made his move...so did the gator! Snap!Lunge! Smiley parried and grabbed, but the gator dashed for the safety of the water.
At this point, Patience had retrieved the castnet and was standing between the gator and the pond. When the gator and Smiley burst from the smilax, she was the only thing between that gator and the sanctuary of the water.
He was running straight towards her. "Throw the net, throw the net!" yelled Smiley as he ran after the gator running towards Patience.
Patience had a momentary "deer in the headlights" expression as Smiley and the gator charged towards her, but she snapped out of it just in time to drop the net on the gator as it ran between her feet.
Smiley dove on the tangled gator, pinned the head, and it was all over except for the ducttaping.
A few minutes later a very tired gator was swimming in the Waccasassa River and the pond was safe for Labs and kids.
...Score: Tie Game.
SAFETY NOTE: DO NOT MESS WITH GATORS. EVEN A SMALL ONE CAN DO LASTING DAMAGE AND A BITE CAN CAUSE A SERIOUS INFECTION. PLUS THERE ARE ALL KINDS OF LAWS PROTECTING GATORS EVEN FROM WELL MEANING , FRIENDLY PEOPLE LIKE SMILEY AND PATIENCE.