Alligators are common in the wetlands along the coast of America’s South — Louisiana, Georgia, South Carolina, Florida and Texas. Large alligators can be found swimming in and basking along the edges of golf courses and neighborhood ponds. We saw many on recent trips to South Carolina. At first alligators are both a thrilling and a chilling sight, but you do get used to seeing them. But don’t get too complacent! Though alligators usually shy away from humans, it’s wise not to get too close. They can hurt or even kill you. There are alligator warning signs everywhere. Dogs can never run loose, either. I used a telephoto lens, but even so I may have been too close. You never know what’s lurking just below the surface. On a Florida ranch, an 800-pound 15-foot-long alligator recently was killed. It had been eating cattle that came to a pond to drink.
My friend Anita took me to a pond in her neighborhood, where there were dozens of baby alligators — an alligator nursery. A mother alligator rested in the water along the bank while the young alligators of various sizes swam in the pond and napped on the banks. On the opposite side of the pond, Snowy Egrets gathered in the trees. It was breeding season, and the egrets had grown filmy plumes that they fanned out in a mating display. Anita noted that they looked like angels. They did!
Hunters once killed these birds for these plumes to adorn ladies’ hats, which caused the numbers of these gorgeous birds to plummet. Now protected in the United States by law, under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the snowy egret population has rebounded.
Although abundant now, alligators were also threatened due to extensive hunting. Once hunted for their hides, alligators today are threatened mainly by habitat loss and encounters with people. They are hunted for their skin (for leather goods) and for their meat. Before hunting was controlled in 1970, an estimated 10 million alligators were killed for their skins.