of the American Alligator extends south from coastal swamps in North and South
Carolina to the tip of southern Florida, then west along the Gulf Coast to the
mouth of the Rio Grande. Alligators range inland throughout the southern coastal
live in freshwater lakes, rivers, and swamps. They occasionally live in brackish
water. Pecan Island has many alligators. Many of the alligators live in fresh
water but many of the alligators live in brackish water also. The alligators
tend to stay away from the brackish water if possible, but sometimes that cannot be
end up where they are not welcome. They tend to roam into places like
people's backyards, pools, and public lakes and ponds. The public likes to
look at the magnificent reptiles, but are scared that they may get too close to
their homes where their pets and children live. So the public likes to
keep their distance from them. In Pecan Island, we deal with this daily.
Alligators often end up in people's yards, barns, in the school yard, and on the
Many of the American
alligators that live in the United States reside in the Florida Everglades.
Out in the sunny glades the broad
leaves of the alligator flag marks the location of an alligator hole. This is the
most incredible ecosystem of all the worlds within the world of the park; for in
a sense, the alligator is the keeper of the Everglades.
With feet and snout these
reptiles clear out the vegetation and muck from the larger holes in the
limestone. In the dry season, when the floor of the glades checks in the sun,
these holes are oases. Then large numbers of fish, turtles, snails, and other
freshwater animals take refuge in the holes, moving right in with the
alligators. Enough of these water-dependent creatures thus survive the drought
to repopulate the glades when the rains return. Birds and mammals join the
migration of the Everglade's animal kingdom to the alligator holes, feeding upon the
concentrated life in them -- and in turn occasionally become food for their
Lily pads float on the surface.
Around the edges arrowleaf, cattails, and other plants grow. Behind
them on higher muckland, much of which is created by the alligators as they pile
up plant debris, stand ferns, wildflowers, and swamp trees. Algae thrive in the
water. The rooted water plants might become so dense as to hinder the movement
and growth of the fish, were it not for the weeding activities of the
alligators. With the old reptiles keeping the pool open, the fish thrive, and
alligators and guests live well.
Plants piled beside the hole by
the alligator decay and form soil with mud and marl. Ferns, wildflowers, and
tree seedlings take root, and eventually the alligator hole may be the center of
a tree island.
So, it's easy to see how
important the alligator is to the ecology of the park. Unfortunately for this
reptile, many people in the past believed only in the value of its hide. Hunting
for alligators became profitable in the mid-1880s and continued until the 1960s.
In 1961 Florida prohibited all hunting of alligators, but poaching
continued to take its toll. Finally, the Federal Endangered Species Act of 1969
protected the alligator by eliminating all hunting and trafficking in hides.
In Pecan Island, the whole
month of September is usually dedicated to alligator harvesting. A person
interested in harvesting alligators must have a certain amount of land to
acquire tags. A tag is the element used to identify harvested alligator.
The tag is placed in the end of the alligator tale. At one time people
skinned their own harvested alligators. Today, alligator farms purchase
the alligator whole and process the hide and meat.
As a result of complete
protection, the alligator has increased greatly in number. They are no longer an
endangered species in Florida,
and they can easily be found in gator holes and sloughs. Today alligators are
eagerly sought by visitors to Everglades National Park who are
anxious to see and photograph this unique creature. Once again, the alligator is
the keeper of the Everglades.
Click here to view photos of alligators.