Sunday, October 22, 2006

Riding Through Lower Suwannee NWR

As you must know, there was no Gator game this weekend ... so the boys and I went looking for a substitute.

Jr., his buddy Tyler, and I took the JEEP out to Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge to keep their Gator mojo alive. I had spent the day shin deep in muck rescuing tiny bluegills out of my drying pond and I was ready for a break. The boys had mostly been electronically entertained and I needed to get them into the REAL. So we went for a ride.

The refuge is 53,000 acres of river swamp, coastal marsh, and forest. It's only about 15 minutes from the Pure Florida homestead. We entered the refuge at about 4:00 pm and hadn't gone very far down one of the gravel roads when Tyler (the best wildlife spotter ever) spotted a big gator lying in a tiny puddle next to the road.

Here's the view over Jr.'s arm.

Jr. took this shot standing up in the topless JEEP. I told him to keep filming if the gator grabbed me as the photos would probably sell for a good price. (No sense in being fatherless and poor ...)

This section of the refuge is a large cypress and gum swamp and usually has pretty good water in it, but the recent dry weather has reduced that to isolated pockets and small ponds. There was decent water not far from here, so it's not like this gator was stranded. I think he had just chosen a good waterhole in which to set up an ambush. He never moved the entire time we were with him, but we didn't really give him any reason to do so. I didn't enter his "zone" and we were quiet as we watched him.

He may be lying in wait for the next turtle or armadillo that crosses the road and doesn't notice the "log". That would be a BIG mistake.

Usually, the roadside gators in the refuge are smaller. They are actually easier to spot in the winter when they are up sunning on ditchbanks and logs. This is the biggest one I've seen so close to the road.

Later on, we saw turkeys, blue herons, beautiful wildflowers, a little water moccasin, but no other gators. We would have missed this fella too if Tyler hadn't been scanning his side of the road with his hunter's eye.

Isn't good to know you own this place and that you are this gator's silent benefactor? Remember that when you grumble about your taxes ... you can still grumble of course. I do.

Even tough ol' Gators need a helping hand sometimes.

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Laura said...

That's a great idea. we'll take the county tax preparer down to see the old gators in the real swamp.
A one way tour, that ought to do the trick.

Abandoned in Pasadena said...

I am so amazed at the picture of the gator. I've seen them on gator airboat tours, but I think that is so neat that you can just see one in the wild like that.

Do your dogs ever spot any gators and what do they do?

Floridacracker said...

Okay, as long as we can take that cranky lady at the tag office with him :)

Dogs and gators do not mix. We had a young 3 foot gator in our pond once, but the dogs seemed to see it as just another fish and didn't respond to it.
Even just a little doggy curiosity around a gator this size could end badly.

roger said...

there's an empty niche in the tv wildlife milieu now that that aussie fellow irwin is gone. you could be the "gator hunter."

thanks for the pic of "our" wildlife. i'd say he looks healthy, but for all i know he could be dead. nice to have a big, wild place so close.

did i miss the post explaining why you always put "jeep" in red caps?

robin andrea said...

Nice gator pic. I'm glad they're there and I'm here, and I get to see them through your eyes. Much appreciated.

doubleknot said...

Very nice journey. Liked the gater pics. Around here if you live by a pond and dogs start disappering you can be a gater has moved in. Dog seems to be their snack of choice.

rick said...

croc dundee has nothing on you except an accent note:I got an e-mail from the game commision that its legal to take one bucket back to your vehicle and go get another as long as you have only one bucket per person and not more than one bucket in the vessel at a time.I will print this email and get you a copy

Betsy said...

dog = sandwich

in gator land.

Deb said...

So what did you do with the rescued bluegills? I had to ask, being a fish person. ;)

I checked out the link to the refuge. It looks like a great place to go exploring, gators or no!

Likes2mtnbike said...

He looks underweight to me but, then, we lost a lot of rain this year without our usual tropical storm season.
Sorry to hear about the pond but what a guy to rescue the bluegills.
But, hey, isn't the weather glorious lately? THIS is the Florida weather I love. How 'bout you?

OldHorsetailSnake said...

A Florida alligator: Man's best friend. Today, anyway.

threecollie said...

Same question as Deb, wondering about the blue gills.

Mrs. S said...

My favorite line of the day: "No sense being fatherless AND poor"

Dude, you crack me up!

Hurricane Teen said...

I believe the Suwannee River between White Springs and Suwannee River State Park is THE most pristine area in north Florida (I haven't seen much of south Florida.) I am sure that it is very similar in this preserve...It's nice to know that it is saved from development!!

Floridacracker said...

very alive, but unlike the current crop of wildlife show hosts, i don't feel a need to prove how fast a gator can whip around and bite you :)
the JEEP is a legend, hence the all caps ... and it's red, hence the ...

They are fearsome and great at the same time. I never see one and go, "hohum, another gator".

That's very true. A dog's worst nightmare.

Hey that bucket news is great. I hope next year is a good one.

Well said in a minimalist sort of way :)

I filled my 700 gallon aquaculture tank and plunked them in there with a crawfish and some lucky minnows. The refuge is a gem, very rustic with only the beginnings of any visitor services, but that's nice too.

He probably is a little hungry. The bluegills were getting slurped by the heron and I just thought I could save a few to restock the pond if the rains come this winter.
This weather is exquisite! A low of 35 is forecast for tonight.

A habitual eater of "man's best friend".

Bluegill rescue gets a post!

Mrs. S,
Heehee. Glad you got a chuckle.

Floridacracker said...

This refuge land will still be wild for your grandchildren. You can thank Teddy Roosevelt for that.

Deb said...

FC- "A low of 35..." Now you're getting into how it's supposed to feel this time of year here in MN. Deviate ten degrees downward or more, and you get what it's like at Sand Creek!

Floridacracker said...

35.1 F at 6:10 am!

kevin said...

These real Gator photos always remind me of Quigley.

Thunder Dave said...

What was that dude, about a 7 footer?

Floridacracker said...

The quig would know what to do... crazy dinosaur.
Quig ... not the gator.

Could be, no bigger, but he might go 7.

Wayne said...

I'm late to the party, but what a party it is. Aren't digital cameras with the zillions of zoom options great? ;-)

Quite a handsome beast (the gator). I expect we'll be seeing them up here someday in the not-too-distant future (the gator).

Floridacracker said...

Just what Goulding creek needs.