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The images that come to mind when I think of Florida are of alligators in swimming pools and huge pythons lurking under houses and through back yards. For months, I have eagerly anticipated this Thanksgiving trip to the Orlando area, and it has been a blast. I went for my first air boat ride yesterday, and it was an exciting experience. Alligators in the wild – not in a zoo, not captive – imposing and awesome:
The air boat was large, with four benches seating four people each. Each person had a set of earphones which offered protection from the sound of the engine and fan. The earphones where equipped with mics so that we could hear the captain and each other.
The most abundant wildlife were American Alligators (Alligator mississipiensis), who seemed fairly comfortable with being the center of attention. It was a sunny afternoon, so we were treated to quite a few alligators stretched out on land, soaking up the midday warmth.
When we came upon this alligator in the picture above, the captain of the boat turned the engine off and allowed us to float quietly toward the shore. The alligator tolerated the boat until we were about twenty feet away – then he got up off of his belly and walked right on into the canal.
Ancestors of American Alligators once walked the Earth about 80 million years ago. The amazing thing is, they have not changed much in all of that time – they must be a very resilient species indeed.