I was recently shown a short video on YouTube that showed a man holding a baby alligator while it fought and tried to get away, and behind the man approaching like its tail was on fire came the momma alligator. The video ended before she got there, which is probably a good thing, but it sure made me shake my head in wonder about the ignorance of the outdoors that permeates our society today.
Now even though I am a native Texan, born and raised just on the west side of the Sabine River, my family all came from South Louisiana, and we had a name for people like the man holding the baby alligator and it is couyon, pronounced (coo-yawn), and about as nicely as I can put it, it means a fool.
Many folks have moved here in the past twenty years and have some from places where it snows, and other places that are made of concrete, glass, and plastic, and have not been exposed to the critters that call the Gulf Coast home. Therefore I will try to offer some pointers about living where alligators are the top of the food chain in this part of the country.
Alligators are native to the Gulf Coast. They were here long before the Spanish stumble their way to South and Central America and then on up in the Texas. They were here long before the Acadians came to South Louisiana when the English ran them out of Nova Scotia in the mid-1600s. So just because someone tries to drain the marshes and swamps and then build houses on that land doesn’t mean that the land isn’t going to flood or that alligators, or any other native critters, are going to just up and vanish.
Also let me assure you that even though alligators are more prolific around the coastal marshes, they can be found as far north as Oklahoma and Arkansas. There are alligators in Lake Conroe, Lake Livingston and I know there are mating alligators in Lake Fork just to mention a few fishing and water recreation hot spots. So if you are up around Longview, Texas and think you see an alligator in a wet area you just might be correct.
To begin with alligators are reptiles, cold-blooded animals. They do not think nor react like warm-blooded animals in the wild much less like the family dog or cats. They have a natural aversion to man. If left to their own initiative they will more than likely leave an area where man is, but then maybe not. Unlike most warm blooded wild animals they do not fear man. I do not believe fear is in the makeup of an alligator. They eat and they propagate and when it gets too cold to sustain their body functions they hibernate.
The aversion that an alligator has toward man is thin at best and if you start to mess with them you are courting disaster. If you see one the correct thing to do is to give it a wide berth and keep a sharp eye on it in case it should decide you are the enemy. I believe enemy and dinner can be synonymous to an alligator.
One big “never” involving alligators in the wild is never feed one. That will completely remove any shyness toward man and they will become aggressive. Alligators are not too picky about their food either. So let’s just say that you see and alligator in a creek or pond and you throw a morsel of food to it. After that it will become almost impossible to get rid of it. It will stay around looking for more food indefinitely.
So let’s say that you feed one and a few days later the family dog runs down to the creek for a drink or a swim. To an alligator that is dinner. It has no way to distinguish the right or wrong between eating a family pet or a dead rotten chicken. Now let’s say a young child goes to the creek. I think I can stop right here.
In my youth I have roamed the marsh is around Port Arthur and we encountered alligators from time to time and never had a problem with them. The reason we did not have a problem with them was we didn’t mess with them. We would note their location when we saw them and make a wide detour around them and go about our business, even if that business was water skiing. Occasionally one would appear to take an interest in us, or what we were doing, so we would move on to another place.
Over the years with all of the restrictions that have been placed upon harvesting alligators for meat or hide, the population of alligators has increased. Add to that, man in his infinite wisdom has destroyed much of their natural habitat and inserted people into areas where it is questionable whether or not houses will even survive the settling in the wetlands, have been proven to flood, and the alligators population is back up to normal numbers and still looking for a meal.
So, keep your eyes open, acknowledge that Mother Nature’s critters live here, don’t be a couyon, and do not feed the gators.