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Gator Love!

Bellows reverberate in a Florida cypress swamp. I assume the noise is from cars with bad mufflers on a nearby highway, but Anne points out that it is alligators making that guttural roar. The sound is so loud at times that it vibrates the wooden walkway we are on. That is astonishing since alligators don’t have vocal cords.

It is late May – prime season for alligator love. The males (bulls) are roaring to attract females and ward off other males. It is an interesting behavior to experience. The bull arches his body so his head is out of the water pointing upward and its tail is also up out of the water. The females swim over to the males, facing them in a “staring” contest. Sometimes the females swim off, other times the bull will push down on the female as they disappear for a few moments under the water. It is thought this is a way for a male to measure the strength of a female.

In addition to the growls, snorts, and bellows is the cacophony of dozens of nearly fledged and fully fledged herons, egrets and wood storks perched in the trees and shrubs surrounding the wetland. It is a an eerie setting punctuated by the protests of a 4-year-old girl scared that the alligators are going to get her. She insists her parents take her to the safety of her home.

I wonder how the first native Americans reacted and what they thought when they arrived in the southeast swamps – before the invention of the light bulb and before businessmen drained and filled in the wetlands. Nights must have been terrifying with reptilian roars and hundreds of thousands of frogs croaking in addition to owls calling from cypress trees. Add lightening and rumbles from distant thunderstorms and you have the setting of a horror film. It must have been awesome!

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