I know a lot of people look forward to fall. The shorter days, the cooler temps. I love the beautiful fall colors and the cooler temps are nice. What I don’t like is the fact that with every day that passes, I see less and less of my alligators.
My favorite time of the year is spring. That’s when all the alligators “wake up” and start to move around. They’re looking for food, looking for new habitats and looking for love. Spring is when I typically find new gators. Some I see once and then never see again.
My favorite gators are the ones I see year after year, in their same habitats. Beau, Mojo, Mrs. B, Val, Neo, Gigi, Jax, Sobek and Baby Charlie, just to name a few. Each spring I can’t wait to visit their habitats and see if they’ve made it through another winter.
If you’ve met me or looked at my website, you know that Beau is my favorite gator. He’s the one I spend the most time with. This year I was disappointed not to see the biggest and oldest gator I know of, Mojo. The last time I saw him was August of 2016. Mojo is blind in one eye (and maybe both). He’s missing lots of toes. He has lots of battle scars. But boy, is he a beauty. I am worried about him. I have no way of knowing if he’s dead or if he possibly moved on (which I doubt, because he’s had the same habitat since I first saw him in 2010).
I didn’t find any new gators this spring. My dad had a heart attack in mid-February and I stayed with him for 3 weeks. And even when I went back to staying at my house, I still didn’t feel comfortable leaving him for a trip to Brunswick County. I’m an only child and I lost my mom in 2014, so my husband and I are all that my dad has. Yes, I missed seeing my gators, but my dad is my number one priority. The beach will always be there and so will the alligators (as long as we don’t get a hunting season).
Fall is the time of year when I do one last clean up of all the gator habitats. I usually wait until after the end of September, when tourist season is typically over with. Last week I visited numerous habitats and picked up 10 huge bags of trash over the course of 8 days. It’s not the alligators who are messy. It’s the humans that illegally feed them and throw their trash at them.
I love meeting new people (and running into people I’ve already met) when I’m out cleaning habitats and visiting gators. This time of year, I usually don’t run into that many people. I was thrilled to meet Angela Holt on October 2nd and we talked for about an hour. I am always amazed at the number of people I meet who love alligators (almost as much as I do) and who also name them. Angela lives in Wilmington and she likes to visit Beau and Mojo. She even knew about Crunch & Munch, the gator that was relocated three times from his habitat near the Walmart in Leland (watch the 4/24/16 video under Blogs). She e-mailed me some amazing photos of Beau, Mojo, one of Val’s hatchlings and Crunch & Munch, which I’m sharing with you in this blog.
We do free presentations for communities and attempt to teach people how to co-exist with alligators in Brunswick County. We believe in educating, not relocating (unless it’s absolutely necessary). I’m not good at standing in front of a crowd and talking (my husband is the pro when it comes to that), but put me beside a habitat with a gator in it and I can talk all day long.
People are usually surprised when they meet me in person and find out what Alligator Alliance is all about. You know that old phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover?” That is certainly true about me. I know I don’t look like your typical wildlife or gator enthusiast. I’m way past middle-age (I’m 56) and I’m not a small person by any means. People are surprised that I’m not afraid of alligators, because I certainly couldn’t out run one. I do respect them though.
I’ve met so many people who have told me that alligators are ugly (boy, do I disagree). That they are big (some of them are). And that they stink (I love the smell of a swamp or a marsh). Others have asked me, why alligators? Why not cute little bunnies, or squirrels or turtles? Again, don’t judge a book by its cover. Who gets to decide that alligators are ugly, just because they aren’t “cute and cuddly” like a bunny? I love ALL wildlife, including opossums, vultures, fox squirrels, lizards and even snakes (okay, I’m still struggling with snakes LOL).
I wasn’t looking for new gators last week, but luckily someone had e-mailed me about one and I went to look for it. I usually don’t find new gators this late in the year, so it was a nice surprise. Unfortunately my husband (and photographer) wasn’t with me, so I didn’t get photos. I also checked out a retention pond in a sub-division and found a second new gator. I am hoping to share photos of Lilli and Brook with you next spring. It was a very good 8 day vacation in Brunswick County for me!
2017 is winding down, but every day that goes by, I am that much closer to spring of 2018, when I will see my gators again. Until then, I have several projects in the works. I am writing a children’s book about alligators. I am also designing an alligator coloring book (which we plan to hand out for free). I am hoping to get kids interested in gators at an early age. We handed out over 500 brochures in 2017 and gave away over 800 wristbands. In 2018 we plan to sell Alligator Alliance t-shirts on our website.
Thank you for all the support we’ve gotten this year. Thank you for all the e-mails and comments and photos you’ve sent. I still can’t believe how far my little organization has come since the first alligator I saw in Southport in July of 2010! I am living proof that it is never too late to find your passion in life. And remember, ONE person CAN make a difference!
Here’s to the Gator Life!
Crunch & Munch
All Photos in this Blog Courtesy of Angela Holt