If you've been reading my blog for a while you may remember a post a while back about my (nearly) phobia level fear of alligators. When Paul finally decided on a school of Florida, my feelings were slightly mixed because, while I loved the mission of the University, I was pretty sure there were going to be alligators everywhere, and my google searches of the city, which showed lakes and ponds every five feet, did little to ease those fears. The comments that I received on the post however, helped a lot, and when I moved I was confident that at least alligators didn't stalk people, or regularly take trips far from their watery homes, or run at 70 mph....
I've been on the lookout since I arrived in Florida and have been busy instilling a healthy (I hope) fear of the various bodies of water around our new home in Sadie and Mae. This mostly involves saying "okay, I want you to watch for alligator eyes when we go by this pond" on our daily walks. Then Sadie yells "I see an alligator eye" every ten seconds of so. Things can really get out of hand when we walk by a pond next to a tennis court where the mud near the bank is dotted with soggy tennis balls.
A canal runs along the back side of many of the ponds and the canal actually makes me feel slightly more panicky than the ponds themselves in an "alligator highway from pond to pond" sort of way.
Now I know that not everyone has my obsessive fear of alligators, but it still seemed like a crazy thing to be doing on a beautiful Saturday, in a town dotted with other free cooling off opportunities (there was a free city water park just down the street).
And I wondered if I was just overreacting. Were there many Floridans that packed up the kids and went to the local pond for a swim?
A few days later, on one of my few trips out with the girls in the van (which is going into the shop today, thank goodness) I saw movement on the banks of the pond of the very same pond as I drove by. I slowed and saw a huge almost black shape, moving rapidly down the grassy bank, it's body snaking from side to side. It looked to me, as I barely made the turn and had to refocus my attention on the road, to be around five feet in length.
Because I figured that my fear of alligators might cause me to see alligators where there aren't any, I tried to find other solutions and didn't announce my first alligator sighting on my blog. Could it be an otter? I remembered seeing a special on giant river otters in the Amazon reaching six feet long. Were their giant river otters in Florida?
And would otters slither side to side? I'd seen otters in the ocean and rivers, and at the edge of the river in California, but I'd never seen them run any significant distance. I wasn't sure how they moved.
Another reason I was unsure if it were really an alligator was because the head was so enormously thick. In my quick sighting it didn't look like there was any significant tapering around the animals snout. The entire head look pretty thick.
Yesterday I came around a corner on my bike, towing the girls in the trailer behind me (we did 7 miles yesterday! And let me say that towing over 90lbs for 7 miles is quite the workout!) and came face to face with an otter, about eight feet away on the grass. It was little and cute and shiny brown. It did a sort of arching hop across the grass to the water. And it was probably around two feet long.
After that I had to restrain myself from running up to every person I saw and exclaiming: "It's an alligator! I saw an alligator in there!" because I really can't think of anything else that it might be.
So for all you who've lived near alligators what do you think? Can I officially count this as my first alligator sighting (I kind of am already because I can't think of what else it could be!)?
All the photos for this post from Wikipedia!