News / USA

Alligators Drift into Florida Canals Near Homes

In part because they’re cold-blooded creatures, alligators such as these specimens at Florida’s Sea World theme park love to sun themselves on a rock or islet. (Carol M. Highsmith)
In part because they’re cold-blooded creatures, alligators such as these specimens at Florida’s Sea World theme park love to sun themselves on a rock or islet. (Carol M. Highsmith)
Ted Landphair
The lowly, ugly alligator is an American success story.  An endangered species that was threatened with extinction all the way into the late 1980s, it has made such a comeback that there are now millions of the scaly reptiles.  So many that they’re considered a nuisance.

“Gators,” as American alligators are sometimes called, now thrive in a hospitable habitat: the swamps and wetlands of the southeastern United States.   The gator is even the mascot of the huge University of Florida in Gainesville. 

You’ll see them - the real, grouchy ones, not the mascots - sunning on hillocks in the vast Everglades, the wetlands that stretch clear across southern Florida. 
Alligators Drift into Florida Canals Near Homes
Alligators Drift into Florida Canals Near Homesi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

Prized for their hides, these menacing reptiles with big eyes and nostrils and bigger teeth had almost been wiped out by poachers and a shrinking habitat as Florida’s fast-growing cities drained the swamps in which alligators once thrived.
It takes a muscular man like this fellow to subdue and hold up a very unhappy alligator. (Carol M. Highsmith)It takes a muscular man like this fellow to subdue and hold up a very unhappy alligator. (Carol M. Highsmith)
x
It takes a muscular man like this fellow to subdue and hold up a very unhappy alligator. (Carol M. Highsmith)
It takes a muscular man like this fellow to subdue and hold up a very unhappy alligator. (Carol M. Highsmith)


But according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, there are now an estimated 1.3 million gators in the state - some of them drifting along South Florida’s many canals, and others snatching the occasional egret, swan, or pet dog right out of people’s backyards.

The gators float nearby, looking for all the world like logs, then rush out of the water on their stubby legs - at the surprising speed of 11 kilometers an hour - to nab their startled prey.  These frightening reptiles, which can reach four-and-one-half meters long and 450 kilograms in weight, then drag their victims back underwater and roll and twist them until they drown.​

Every year, a few human swimmers, dog-walkers, or those who dangle their feet enticingly off a canal dock suffer the same fate.
 
No wonder these cold-blooded beasts - in both physiology and outlook on life - are the stars of shows put on for tourists.  Florida’s native Seminole Indians, and muscular young men in theme parks such as Sunken Gardens in Saint Petersburg, wrestle the meanest-looking gators you can imagine - lifting the thrashing reptiles out of a tank and holding them up for tourists to take pictures.

Alligators are a long way down the evolutionary tree when it comes to intelligence.  Their brains are the size of a large bean.  But they’re said to be smart by reptilian standards.  

Still, one gator-wrestler we met told us he could go after an alligator a thousand times in a row, and the gator would think he was a new threat every time.  

He isn’t, but the gator is to him.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs