It is springtime and the flowers are blooming, the birds are chirping, and the alligators are...menacing.
My recent visits to two of the South Carolina Lowcountry's wildlife areas have been highlighted by my extreme caution with every step when I'm near the old rice fields that are common to these special sanctuaries.
Spring is when the alligators come out of their winter hibernation to soak up the sun, to mate and create little gators, and to feed on the unlucky fish and animals that cross their paths. Don't fall for that charming, toothy gator smile (below), these guys are lethal.
This month at the Ernest F. Hollings National Wildlife Refuge and the Donnelley Wildlife Management Area, both located in the ACE Basin south of Charleston, I encountered alligators of all shapes and sizes. Some are just huge- long, thick and heavy.
Some were medium-sized, adolescents perhaps. Gators grow fast though, losing any "childhood innocence" very quickly.
Here (below) was a bunch of gators in a dike at the Hollings refuge. The walking trail is raised, affording a view down into the water- and a bit of needed safety and distance.
Alligators do seem to be a social group, enjoying each others company and warmth, at least when they are younger.
This little gator (below) appeared to be no more than a week or two old. It was with three or four other babies and their very watchful parent. They eyes of all alligators are unsettling, but even more so among the young ones.
I had only taken a couple shots when the mother decided I had worn out my welcome. Suddenly I was startled by a big spashing sound. The gator did not come toward me, but put forth a loud demonstration to try to intimidate and scare me away. It worked!
The American alligator is the world's largest reptile. Gators thrive in remote, isolated areas like these nature preserves. It is a treat to be able to walk among (but not too close to) them. We are just visitors to places like this and need to behave as such. Briefly look, take some pictures and move on. At least that's my approach.
Don't think because they are just laying there that they are not aware of your presence.
Oh, they know you are there, and are keeping a watchful eye. Alligators haven't been around millions of years because they are careless and can't defend themselves, even against man.
Give gators the respect-and distance-they deserve.
Alligators are admirable ancient animals that prefer to stay away from humans as much as we prefer to stay away from them.
In fact, some research says a person is more likely to be struck by lightning than to be attacked by an alligator.