Somehow I appeased the Rain gods. After a day in lab picking out nematodes from alligator stomachs, praying that the rain would clear up, me and two of my undergrads were off with Florida Fish and Wildlife to Silver Lake for some gator catching/population survey. For my undergrads this would be their first time on an airboat and catching wild alligators. My only advice to them, “Don’t hesitate and don’t let go.” We caught a couple of smaller gators which was perfect for the newbies who hand-catched them like pros! To hear the excitement come out of their voice after catching these wild alligators was one of the highlights of my night. The adrenaline rush you get in catching gators is nothing you can experience in Los Angeles.
A part from the catching, we saw 4 female alligators guarding their nests. It was amazing. We came up close to 2 nests – one female was posturing and jumping and biting the branches around her, while the other one was grunting and coming to our boat. It was amazing to see this! These females were not going to let anything harm their babies and were willing to put up a fight. The parental care by crocodilians is astounding- is it possible that parental care has to do with part of their million of years of survival??? Something to ponder…
The most exciting part of the night for me was fishing for gators in the lake. My friend Patrick caught one with a treble hook. He then gave me the rod to reel the gator in and then he would snare it. We were aiming for a 5-6 footer so I was confident I could deal with the power of the gator. After a minute or two, I knew the gator on the other end was not a 5-6 footer. I was holding that rod with all my might, and there was one point I told myself, “I’m going into the water” as the gator did a quick, strong tug. I really wouldn’t mind if that happen, but there was a 11 foot gator that kept trailing our boat and bee-lining for us as if it was going to knock us over. So, I was doing my best in not falling in the water with a fearless 11 foot gator. What seemed like 10-15 minutes of fighting with this gator with all my might, Patrick was able to snare the animal. We pulled the animal in and measured the female to 8’5 feet. That strength of a gator that size is at least triple and now I realize why I had to put up as much of a fight as I did. All I know is 1) I have to work on my fishing skills, and 2) I got to hit some weights!
So us Angelinos had a blast. We thanked the guys, and told them if they ever came to Los Angeles we would show them around. I cracked up as one of my students said, “We will make sure you have the LA experience: we will take you to go get botox, get a tan, sit in traffic…” Its funny, because its kind of true.
Now off to Cajun country- Louisiana!