We were in Brunswick County the week leading up to Hurricane Florence. As you all know by now, Beau is my favorite alligator. I have spent countless hours with this gator and he is a big, beautiful boy! As time grew closer for Florence to hit and us to leave Brunswick County, I noticed that Beau (and other gators) disappeared. We know that alligators are far smarter than people give them credit for. They have incredible instincts and that is why they have survived for millions of years. We believe the alligators sensed the coming hurricane and went to their dens to wait it out.
We didn’t think that the hurricane would affect the alligators very much. All of the rain just made their habitats bigger. It gave them more room to swim and hunt. We learned that the road by Beau’s habitat lost a 250 foot section. The pond he calls home breached the road and washed out the causeway. About 3 weeks after the hurricane, we were thrilled to see a photo of Beau swimming between the broken halves
of the road.
Although the photo eased our minds, we still wanted to see Beau in person. We’ve been back to Brunswick County several times since the hurricane, but it seemed that every time we went to visit Beau’s habitat, he wasn’t there. They were working on repairing the road that goes by his pond and Beau doesn’t like the noise the loud trucks make. We have observed him many times going underwater even before we heard a dump truck approaching. Alligators have excellent hearing and they also feel vibrations. We continued to check on other habitats, but we really wanted to see Beau.
We spent several days this past week in Brunswick County. The very first thing we did when we arrived was drive straight to Beau’s habitat. I didn’t want to get my hopes up, because we typically don’t see many alligators in November. As we pulled up beside the pond, I saw Beau’s “friend” Mrs B (a female he’s been hanging out with for the past few years). I was excited to see ANY alligator at this time of year. We continued to drive slowly by the pond and then I saw him! I saw Beau! I was so happy that I screamed (and scared my husband to death).
Seeing Beau in pictures and reading e-mails where people have told me they saw him and that he looked fine, is nothing like seeing him in person for myself. The last time I saw Beau was on September 7th. I was so relieved to see him last week and to see that he was okay. He has been battling an eye infection in his right eye since October of 2014 and I was happy to see that it has completely cleared up. It’s been touch and go this year. One time I’d see him and it would look better, then the next day it would look cloudy again.
We got a LOT of work done and did our final clean up of the year. We picked up trash on our adopted roads (through NC Adopt-A-Highway) and we cleaned some more habitats. We had previously cleaned the majority of them in October. We saved Beau’s area for last. It’s good that we did, because our extra long custom made grabber broke. It’s not the first one we’ve worn out in the past 8 years. I’m lucky that my husband can make another one and we’ve got the entire winter for him to work on that project.
We were anxious to check on Quinn and her 9 hatchlings that we saw at the end of October, but we didn’t see any sign of her or the hatchlings. However, we did see another juvenile that we’ve never seen before. It is very unusual to find new alligators in November. We have only seen Quinn in this particular area, but a friend of ours (Sharon) who lives near there, has told me that she’s seen 2 smaller gators besides Quinn. We decided to name the new gator Toto.
I have always loved fall and the cooler temps it brings, as well as the colorful foliage on the trees. But, when this time of year approaches, I know I won’t be seeing my alligators for a while. I will miss them. Now the countdown begins. Every day that passes, we are one day closer to spring. I can’t wait to be on “Gator Patrol” again! Swamp water runs through my veins! I am never happier than when I am in a swamp, surrounded by mosquitoes, no-see-ums and alligators. We are looking forward to 2019 and seeing what it holds in store for Alligator Alliance.
My late mother-in-law (Wanda) used to say “There is always, always something to be thankful for!” How right she was!
This year didn’t start out very well for me. I lost a family member who meant so very much to me just a few days after Christmas. I sank into a depression that lasted for a few months. In January I even decided that I was going to dissolve Alligator Alliance. That thought didn’t last long (obviously), but I just wanted to give an example of what mindset I was in at that time.
With the New Year also came the realization that NC would have its first alligator hunting season in 45 years. However, we were very thankful that only 20 permits were issued and they were ALL in Hyde County! Those permits weren’t cheap. Each application cost $8 and each permit cost $250. We were even more thankful that out of those 20 permits that were purchased, only ONE alligator was killed! So that means that 19 hunters paid $258 for the opportunity to harvest an alligator and they weren’t able to find one. Wild alligators (not illegally fed, “food conditioned” alligators) are very shy and illusive. They flee from humans. They are also very well camouflaged and extremely hard to see.
The funniest thing we heard all year long was what hunter Jeffrey Raub said in an interview with CBS 17 in October:
"I don't understand why the county manager and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission would allow this opportunity if there's nothing there. It would be like having a unicorn season in Johnston County. The initial thought was a lot of excitement. It looks like some great alligator habitat. The problem is there aren't any alligators."
Thank you Jeffrey! That comment about the unicorn hunting season made us laugh until tears rolled down our faces!
North Brunswick Magazine contacted us and wanted to do an article about Alligator Alliance (we ended up making the front cover of the Summer issue). Carolina Country Magazine contacted us about doing a features article (that came out in July). We can’t thank both publications enough for these articles! It gave us exposure that we never dreamed of getting! We are so very thankful for both opportunities!
I am very thankful to one of my best friends (Kim) who always has a guest bedroom ready for me. All I have to do is pick up the phone and text her and she says “Come on down!” We are also very thankful to our new friends Dawn and Jeff for allowing us to stay in their guest house.
We are very thankful to our realtor (Shelly Vaughan-Morrow) for helping us search for land AND the future home of Alligator Alliance! I know our list of requirements was very long, but she never, ever gave up on finding us exactly what we wanted!
And, last but not least, I am so very thankful for my husband (John), who gave up an ENTIRE SUMMER of fishing, just so he could help me find new alligators and clean habitats! The last time he went fishing was on May 25th! Due to all of the exposure both magazine articles gave us, we had more people to talk to than the last 8 years combined!
I am so thankful that my love of alligators that started in July of 2010 (when I saw my first one in the wild) has grown to something beyond anything I could have ever imagined. I am thankful that I was able to turn my alligator obsession into Alligator Alliance!
Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Please count your blessings. And remember, there is always, always something to be thankful for!!!