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Meet Mama Gator!Posted Tuesday, February 14, 2012, at 7:58 AM
It took a sharp eye to see this alligator up on a ledge, watching over a quiet lagoon at the Corkscrew Sanctuary near Naples, Florida.
Last year, on my first trip to southern Florida, I maxed out on alligators, taking dozens of photos at every opportunity. However, this year, I took only one alligator shot--and there was a special reason for that!
We went to a beautiful, protected swampland called Corkscrew Sanctuary near Naples. The 11,000 acre sanctuary is owned by the National Audubon Society and is home to over 200 species of birds and the largest remaining stand of virgin bald cypress trees in North America. In addition, it is home to mountain lions, otters, rare wood storks, pileated woodpeckers, and at least one BLUE alligator! (Look at the photo! She's BLUE!)
We arrived relatively late in the day, so we only had time to walk the short trail, winding through four habitats--pinelands, freshwater marshes, wet prairies, and cypress swamps. The 2.25 mile boardwalk is made of Brazilian wood, so it is extremely durable, zigzagging above the landscape, pausing occasionally to offer a bench, where visitors can sit and listen to the sounds of water birds and frogs.
My friend, who had been keeping an eye out for alligators, spotted Mama Gator, while we were watching a snake bird (anhinga) catch fish and then spring from the water to dry its wings. The gator, quite a large one, was lying quietly on a ledge about three feet above the lagoon, smiling out at the water. Vines hung everywhere, and I expected Tarzan of the Apes to swing from the trees at any moment.
Several regular visitors to the sanctuary came up behind us, as I was taking pictures. They proceeded to fill us in on the history of this particular gator.
"She has four babies in the lagoon," said one lady, clad in khaki and carrying a pair of binoculars. "Sometimes we see one of the babies lying on her back."
It seems that a slow-moving river feeds into the lagoon, and an occasional male alligator will make his way into Mama gator's territory.
"She chases them out!" said our new friend. "They'll eat her babies!"
Who knew that mama gators could be so maternal? I'm impressed! I'll look at the ugly creatures differently from now on!
Next year, we plan to go back to Corkscrew earlier in our trip and earlier in the day, so we can spend more time there. We would even like to take one of the night tours.
Our friend Ken Steinhoff says that white eyes are frogs, and red eyes are alligators!
From the former swamp lands of Southeast Missouri, this is your rural reporter, Madeline, watching her tan fade away, as we speak...
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Madeline (Giles) DeJournett is the Advance writer for the North Stoddard Countian. A retired high school English/history teacher, she spent 32 years teaching in 5 schools in Missouri and Alaska. These days, she lives quietly with a menagerie of wild and domestic animals on 52 secluded acres in the remote Tillman hills south of Advance. She graduated from Dexter High School in 1960 and Southeast Missouri State in 1964. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.