Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Mostly Irrational Fears and Moving to Florida

Sometime around the age of six I came to a couple of conclusions. After watching something on TV I decided that, because of the large population of alligators whatever I had been watching had shown in Florida, I would never be able to go there.

This was a major sacrifice in my little first grade mind, because, as we all know, Disney World is in Orlando... but since I could practically see alligators snapping their razor sharp teeth under the rides, I decided the days of fun I might enjoy if I could convince my parents to take me across the country, just wouldn't be worth the risk to life and limb.

I added a few other places to the "no travel" list as well: Ricki-Ticki-Tavi quickly painted India as the land of cobras, eliminating it from my list. A documentary we watched in class on some deadly sea snakes meant I wasn't going to be plunging into any great blue sea anytime soon. And another documentary a few years later on "the world ten most poisonous animals" squelched my desire to go Down Under for several years.

In light of my fear of all things creepy, it is rather amazing that I spent a semester in South Africa (although for the first week I did check under my bed... which was in the city... for snakes...).

Now I realize that these fears are on par with the fears I've heard on occasion from people about Earthquakes and California. And I've lived her for nearly thirty years and have survived pretty well. Something terrible could happen... but the probability is pretty low...

Yet the deep-seated fear remains.

And the photos of the houses we've applied to live in, which show a dark expanse of water not far from the backyard, have really done nothing to ease the irrational nervousness. Neither did the maps Paul showed me after being accepted.

Him: "See this is where the school is?"
Me: "That's right next to the everglades!"
Him: "Oh that's just the map scale... It's like 20 miles away!"
Me: "And that road... Alligator Alley!!!!!"
Him: "Again, like 20 miles away."
Me: "And you think Alligators just stop, because of some magical line on the map?!?!?!"

So as you can see, the irrational nervousness may be winning out. And those reports that showed an alligator biting a police car last week really did nothing to help.

The giant mountain lion prints we found near Nani and Grumpa's do put things in perspective a bit... We're trading earthquakes and volcanoes and mountain lions for hurricanes and alligators...

Anyways, any comments you all have that say: "I've lived in Florida for decades and have never seen an alligator outside a zoo!" would be greatly appreciated.


  1. You know I'm from Mississippi. We also have alligators. Never saw one up close and personal despite living next to a body of water. Although I've had friends who have. Mostly they eat pets and don't attack humans unless provoked. The alligator who went after the police car had something wrong with it. They usually don't do anything like that. If you see one, just stay inside and call animal control. It won't bother you, I swear. But don't let your pets stay outside overnight if you live close to a lake or something. Alligators stay very close to water unless they are hungry and they'll move out a few feet. But never 20 feet. They move faster in water so it's more practical for them to stay close to water.

    You really have nothing to worry about. I worried about scorpions out here when I first moved out. I haven't seen any.

  2. I haven't lived in Florida for decades, but I have lived here since 2007 (central Florida), and the only alligators I've seen have been on a reserve or at Gatorland (yeah, they have that here). Yes, sometimes alligators are close to people here, but I think it can also get blown out of proportion by the newscasters. Just as you would avoid mountain lions you see (who can move much faster on land, by the way), you would avoid any alligators you see.

    And 20 miles really is a long way for an alligator. It might be a little scary to think about, but it'll be okay! And I can't wait for you to be sharing my state!

  3. I lived in South Louisiana for 4 years, across the street from the Vermilion river. Never saw a snake or 'gator. My Cajun in-laws tell me "dey good eatin'" but I've never tried.

    I heard reports of gators around, but never any attacks.

    On the other hand they aren't anything that small arms fire can't handle. O! There's an idea. Gator-skin snoods. They're waterproof! And you could trim it with the teeth!

    Ok, I'll stop before I dig myself any deeper.

  4. Some friends of ours have a son that goes to Ave Maria University, and they went to visit him. They decided it would be fun to camp while they were down there, and when they woke up, they realized they were sleeping right next to the Florida Panther Wildlife Refuge. So, there's always panthers, too. :-)

    It will be exciting to read about your new adventures in Florida!

  5. From the "What the @#$% was I Thinking?!" files, when we lived in the Florida Panhandle, my husband, me, and our kids aged 2 and 1, took a trip to the Blackwater River where we picnicked and TOOK A SWIM!! I am picturing that swim right now, us bobbing up and down chest deep in the murky, dark water (holding our babies!)... I must have been either much braver or much stupider back then :^)

  6. I 've heard they can be found down here too but have never seen one. I know that's nowhere near the same thing though lol. I'm sure you'll be fine though!

  7. I went to Florida to visit my brother and his family and I went to the Everglades and saw my first Aligator. It scared me. Also, while I was there an aweful story happened where a woman was killed by an aligator as she was out for a walk. But, then I think of the mountain lion who killed a lone runner near our house back when I was in high school. The reason for that was the woman was on her period and ran next to the den of the mountain lion. Pretty dumb. What you need to look out for are the ponds and streams where the aligators live. If you have a pool it needs to be fenced in to keep them out. You will be living with these animals and talking to the locals about safety precautions will help your peace of mind. I am much more concerned about huricanes. Those are fast and deadly but living near the everglades will help keep you somewhat safe. You should be fine and the chance of getting hurt by an aligator is slim as long as you follow the advice of the locals.

  8. I'm here in southern Alabama, and have seen a few gators in the water near the Causeway between our county and next one east. They do occasionally venture out onto the roadway, or out of the lake in the municipal park, but it is pretty rare. Now, a lady close by found a coyote in her kitchen recently, but I digress...

    Just keep pets and children inside and be careful around rivers, etc., and you'll be fine.


  9. Not living in Flordia doesn't guarantee you'll never see a wild alligator. There was one swimming in the Chicago River last summer! And it didn't seek destruction amongst the people of Chicago. ;)

  10. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I have to be honest. I friend of mine visited Ave Maria a summer or two ago and while sitting on a deck outside a friend's home, up came a snake to visit. My friend killed it with a shovel. I'm with you, I don't like any kind of creepy, crawly, or fast moving things. They scare me and my husband jumps about 3 feet too because I scream. I really need to get better about that.... I can say I've never seen an alligator outside of a zoo. :)

  11. I did not know they were alligators in Florida; learnt a new thing today:)

  12. I lived in LA for the first 26 years of my life (I loved 3 miles from open water about for about 23 years) I have seen alligators but I have also been in their area (like on the rivers and bayou). About 90% of the time they won't bother you. I have never known anyone who has been attacked by an alligator. Stay away from the edges of water ways and out of the water in their areas. They are faster than you would imagine. They don't tend to chase you, just lunge. I've been on the water most of my life. The basic rule is don't mess with them and they won't mess with you. Don't stress out about the kids playing outside. As long as you are not living within 30 feet of water the Alligators won't be interested. They don't eat on land. They prefer to drown their pray. Don't stress Cam. It's nothing to really stress about.

  13. I do recall a story where a 12' gator was sunning himself on the interstate bridge (I-10) over the bayou. It didn't attack anyone, but did back up traffic.

  14. I'm behind reading your blog, so excuse my late post...
    But as a Univ of Florida graduate (GO GATORS!), and an Orlando resident... hopefully my post will bring you some peace.
    Yes, you'll see a Gator living in FL. But no, it will not attack you. You'll see it from a far-off distance as you're walking around a local lake or driving in your car... you'll zoom in with your camera lens just to prove to everyone in the world that you indeed saw the evil, lurking creature... but then you'll realize it's sleeping in the sun and has no interest in your or your tasty little toes.
    And then, you won't see another one for at least a year.
    That's how it goes!

    Prayers for your transition to our beautiful state... I love it here! :)

  15. You may not like me.

    I moved to South Florida (east coast) in 1992. Two days before Hurricane Andrew hit. I hadn't wanted to move to Florida in the first place and a major hurricane hitting about an hour south of us 2 days after we moved in made me think such things happened there all the time.

    The fact is though, like earthquakes in California, they don't and, unlike earthquakes in California, you always have ample preparation before a hurricane hits and most are not Andrews or Katrinas. I'd also point out that Ave Maria is significantly inland. Hurricanes do the most damage on the coast due to the water and the fact that land weakens them.

    I lived in South Florida (not counting time at college) until 2004 and never saw an alligator outside of a contained environment or the everglades (we took an airboat ride). Now, there was once suspicion there was a gator in the lake behind our house as ducks seemed to be disappearing. If one is seen or suspected, there are animal control phone numbers for professionals to deal with them and, as ferocious as they are, they have some distinct disadvantages, like not being able to make sharp turns. (My dad, being the boy scout leader he was, knew all about what to do if you encounter one as they went camping in South Florida.) Certainly, they are not to be trifled with, but they are not any more eager to enter into civilized areas than you are to have them there. They only wind up there because civilization has entered so much of their habitat. Every environment has its dangers, California and Florida included. (But California has more liberals!) :)


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