I now have photographic proof alligators in North Alabama. Unfortunately the photo isn’t mine.
That is a photograph sent to me by a commenter on this site, taken very near to my first kayak trip on Wheeler Wildlife Refuge. Here is the comment he left me:
“Runwolf, If you really want to see a pic of a North Alabama gator, I have a couple that my wife and I took of about 10 footer on June 25 of this year. I’ll gladly send them to you if you leave me your e-mail address.”
I wasted no time emailing Mr. King asking for the location and a copy of the photo. He sent me the above picture, credited to his wife. He also gave me permission to use the photo here. He was, however, not interested in giving me the location.
I can understand this. The Kings are nature photographers. And they jealously guard there locations like fishermen. I get that. So I asked him again, in a more general way, for information. Here is his response:
“Mike, I don’t normally give out specific locale info but you seem like a cool guy with a lot of enthusiasm. You can’t be too careful these days. They are magnificent creatures and I just want to be sure they are not harmed in any way. I hope you understand. I enjoyed reading your blog. Sounds like you have been in the right spots. I think some days they are probably more visible than on other days. I have definitely heard from reliable sources that the east side of Limestone Bay has a population of gators. Just keep looking. The two gators we have found personally have been a place this blog owner has redacted. One was in the creek that flows through there. The one we found a few days ago was actually swimming in that tupelo tree stand. We have photographed a lot of cottonmouths from there too, so keep an eye out for them. Just please don’t kill any. Did I mention we are snake lovers? LOL.”
Now my first trip via canoe into the Refuge was in Limestone Bay. I was in the Northwest, so I will be going east next time I visit. This is where I think I saw a year old gator but can’t prove it.
As for the place I’m not telling you about until I get a picture there, I was in that stand of trees not two days after the Kings took their picture! Two days! I very well could have been within hundreds of yards of that very gator!
***UPDATE*** I was NOT there two days after the photo. I was there four days BEFORE the photo. My mistake. Two days after I was dealing with a different kind of wildlife in Tell City, Indiana. I’ve been working on a post about that and will have it up sometime this year. But it has very little to do with Alligators. ***END UPDATE***
Mr. King estimates that gator at ten feet. I have a very good idea of exactly what ten feet looks like. It is how long my new kayak is. While clearly not a monster gator, it is nothing to mock. Let me show you what a ten foot gator looks like.
That’s my son sitting in my ten foot kayak on the floor of Gander Mountain just before we bought the kayak. I think it provides a nice image of what a ten foot gator looks like.
I have no doubt that the camera used by the Kings is far superior to my own camera. I keep my gear light, small and waterproof. I use a small Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP waterproof camera with a 3x optical zoom. (Mine’s that cool green color) At full zoom it is the equivalent of a 105mm lens on a 35mm camera. I suspect that I may have to get a bit closer to get a similar shot.
And gators aren’t just willing to wait around for their picture to be taken. Mr. King didn’t mention how they arrived at their spot but I suspect they hiked. As I am a paddler, I suspect my boat may be making my efforts harder. I’m sending vibrations through the water at speeds greater than sound warning gators of my presence long before I arrive.
In fact, this same gator may have heard me, submerged and been within a dozen feet of me and I wouldn’t have known it. And gators can remain submerged for a long time. 10-15 minutes is easy. 2 hours is possible.
So patience, Runwolf. Patience. Go slower, stay longer. Plan better. Your goal is out there.
And to Mr. King, I promise to leave your precious snakes alone. As long as they stay out of my boat. Then, all bets are off.
And thanks for the picture. Now to get one of my own.