Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Gator at Juniper Run

Paddling down Juniper Creek last week, Crystal and I came upon a sizable alligator lying on a big matt of vegetation. I laid my kayak up against the matt around 12 feet from the gator. He looked dead... well really, dead asleep in the afternoon sun - part of him sunken into the algae, no detectable breathing. He didn't make much of a photo composition from my angle, but I made a few images anyway since I was so close. (Here's one: Too Close For Comfort) The strong current held my boat fast against the weeds so I pushed away with my paddle. Before I could take a stroke, the boat floated forward a few feet and landed smack against the matt again... only now I was only 6 feet from the gator which made me a little nervous. Still, not a twitch. I started to push off again and suddenly he flew into the air - legs flailing and tail thrashing - as he scrambled, dived, and clawed his way through a hole in the matt and into the creek. Crystal called back from downstream to make sure I was allright after hearing all the crashing and splashing. I regretted so needlessly disturbing him (and worrying her). Laying in my sleeping bag the next morning, it dawned on me that the gator could have easily flown my way in his quest for safety since I was the closest direction to open water. That could have had nasty consequences. In years past, I haven't feared alligators much, but several recent attacks on humans, including a death in this very creek are leading me to rethink my reckless bravado. I must keep a more respectful distance. Isn't that what telephoto lenses are for anyway?

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