In a brief visit to the Sea Pines Wildlife Preserve on Hilton Head Island last week I chanced upon this 10 foot alligator who, needless to say, made quite an impression on me with his cold stare and bony skin spikes (called scutes). I’m unable to demonstrate the difference between alligators and crocodiles to you since the best way is to look closely in their mouths. More about their dental capabilities below.
I felt quite safe on a raised dock with 15 feet between us but he showed me this menacing glare for almost twenty minutes – either just posing for his picture or, more likely, hoping I was going to try and cool off in the lake with a swim. You wouldn’t want to get that close on land because they’re known to be incredibly fast in one direction. In Florida where alligators are most common, Smithsonian says 5 people became their dinner in the last 20 years (the same institution says Spanish sailors visiting the New World thought the unfamiliar alligator was a huge lizard. In Spanish, el lagarto means the lizard. English sailors took the name as allagarter and in time it has become alligator.)
American alligators that make it past 4 feet, at this point having few predators except man, who likes to envision them as shoes or pocketbooks, live to about 50 years. Seems they don’t need regular dental care, since they can regenerate their six dozen teeth as they wear down, for a total of several thousand over a lifetime.
Probably should have kept this scary fellow for the October image but leave a comment on his creepy countenance if you wish at the end of this blog.