By Charles Towne

All of my attention was on the group of wood storks that were fishing in the canal.  

Wanting to get a little closer, moving quietly so as not to disturb the birds that I wanted to photograph I swung my leg over the large deadfall log and promptly forgot all about the storks.

I had broken a cardinal rule of survival.  Never assume that it is safe to step over a log until you have checked to make sure there is not a snake sunning itself in the grass on the other side.

As I lowered my foot I was surprised by a stunning blow to my thigh.  No, it wasn’t a snake, it was a six-foot-long alligator that I had rudely disturbed by stepping on it.  The alligator, almost as surprised as I was, swung it’s head in a roundhouse blow that darned near knocked me down and then it promptly vanished into the tannin darkened waters of the canal.

Alligators are not fussy about what they eat.  Ross Allen, founder of the Silver Springs Reptile Institute liked to say, “if the occasion presents itself the alligator will eat a pine knot, and probably digest it!”   The only prerequisite is that their meal is meat and it matters not a bit that it is rotten, for they are opportunistic hunters and dead prey doesn’t fight back.

If it lives in the woodlands, marshes lakes or rivers near a gator habitat… sooner or later it is apt to fall prey to the ambush of a hungry alligator.  Deer, small bear, raccoons, skunks, all types of birds, otters, turtles, fish, stingrays, smaller alligators, snakes of every kind and almost anything creeps, crawls walks, flies or swims, anything that it can seize, is fair game. And that includes the family dog.

One might well ask, “what good purpose does the alligator serve?

Just one of the benefits of having the alligator as a resident, and there are many, is based on the fact that Florida is a fisherman’s paradise.  Alligators help dramatically to reduce the non-game species of fish thus enabling the game fish such as bass to proliferate, and they also create deep ponds, called “gator holes” where game fish prosper.  

As to the question, do alligators eat humans? I will have to answer that with another question, what part of “carnivore” do you not understand?

In order to prevent alligator problems, there are several things one can do.

(1)  Always pay close attention to alligator warning signs, they are there for good reason.  It was July 13th, 1987 when a Florida State University student foolishly left the well-posted swimming area at Wakulla Springs State Park.  He should have known better. A short time later a tourist on a glass-bottomed boat excitedly pointed out the alligator with the dead deer in its jaws, only the deer turned out to be the student.

(2)  Don’t assume that it is safe to swim even if there are no signs posted!  We live in Florida! Alligators live in Florida! Alligators eat meat! Alligators are always hungry!  Be forewarned!

(3)  Don’t clean fish or discard food scraps in the water.  Fish offal entices alligators in the same way that throwing bloody chum attracts sharks.

(4)  Never, never, never, never ever feed alligators.  Once trained to take handouts the alligator rapidly learns to associate food with humans, and soon they lose their natural fear of man and this can lead to disastrous results.

(5)  When you know that someone is feeding alligators please report such incidents to the authorities.  You could possibly be saving someone’s life.

Remember, feeding alligators is illegal in the State of Florida, (Punishable by jail time and a hefty fine) and it is also extremely dangerous.

Observe the rules, be safe, enjoy nature, and God bless you.

Charles Towne is first and foremost a Christian. An octogenarian, author, journalist, wildlife photographer, naturalist, caregiver, and survivor, his life has been and continues to be, a never-ending adventure filled with possibilities never imagined. He has adopted the philosophy that to Live fully, laugh uproariously, love passionately, and learn like there is no tomorrow, is a formula for a long and joy-filled life.


  1. As always, interesting, entertaining, and informative! In things to do, the first bit of advice, I was surprised to learn that gators can read, otherwise how would they know the areas to avoid so folks can swim?
    Love ya Chaz!

  2. Ahh Ricardo, Ricardo, Ricardo, my dear friend Ricardo, you are one very astute dude. In fact I am astounded at your astuteness. you stick with me and I will learn ya stuff beyond your capacity and ability to learn stuff! Chaz

    • OK Chaz, I have been told I am already educated beyond my intellectual capacity but if you want to “push the envelope” it’s fine with me!

      • I am sorry Richard, so sorry, Yes I am, sorrier than you can imagine. (ALL THAT WAS SAID WITH GREAT HUMILITY AND CONTRITENESS OF SPIRIT AND SORROW) Blessings on ya pal, Chaz

  3. Every person that reads this piece and still does not understand the definition of “carnivore” should take an educational day at Gatorland. That trip combined with your sage advice would be very worthwhile. We are happy we do not live close to a body of water – the coyotes and bears in the neighborhood are exciting enough. Congrats again on the book deal – can’t wait to get a copy. Keep the stories coming – always make my Sunday morning special.

  4. Yes Mike, BUT! there are always those that will contend with the facts and pay drastically for their stupidity. Thanks for the congratulations. I thank God continually for the publisher. Having a recognized publisher grab the caregiver book is a dream come true! I will definitely continue writing, after all, it is what I do. I am greatly pleased that you find the articles rewarding. Bless you both, Chaz

  5. I will never forget the day I was driving in Orlando and was surprised to see a huge alligator, twelve or thirteen feet long, dragging its massive bulk down the busy street! I am supposing it was traveling from one lake to another. Yes, ‘gators are dangerous, but only when humans disregard their potential for danger. Most informative article! A Friend

  6. Dear Friend, it seems that some folks don’t have the good sense God gave a goofy gopher and it is that lack of good sense that invariably leads to disaster. Thanks, and blessings on you and yours. Chaz

  7. WOW!
    Another unforeseen blessing from God…stepping on a gator and not even realizing it until it was too late! All I have to say is YIKES!
    I have a healthy respect for
    gators, in captivity and in the
    wild, especially when I am photographing them.
    Amazing how something that quiet, slow and sometimes just lazy can completely turn into a frenzy of energy when their space is invaded. Thanks, Chuck for another great tale of the outdoors!
    I am always intrigued by your experiences. God bless you!

  8. Dear Friend, CSG, it just shows t’ go ya that Papa God is really in control if we are willing to let him. To be very honest with you i am overwhelmed that Papa has always been there for me, even when I resisted Him. All glory to HIM! Blessings on you and yours! Chaz

  9. They all love water, no matter where it is located! So, you really can’t trust any body of water and think it might not have a gator in it. I remember an artificial lake that had been created in Lake Mary Florida, for some land development. No fish was in it…..except a gator showed up! That gator stayed in that place for at least a month and then disappeared. Finally decided moved, who knows where. Thankfully no child or pets were reported missing, as there was plenty of both around that lake.

  10. Don, you are sooo right, and they will travel some distance to get to a different body of water. I have a skull that came from a big gator on lake Eustis just after world war two. That gator was a whopper about fifteen feet long. The dude that killed it looked out and saw this grand daddy gator stalking one of his kids, went inside the house, grabbed his rifle and shot that gator! Killed it shotgun dead he did! That was in 1944, a long time before I came to Florida. Carnivore? I should say so! Blessings pal, Chaz


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