As a transplant from Boston to Florida I am continuously amazed and awed by Florida’s wild life, but there is a scary new problem developing….Alligators are moving onto foreclosed properties.
After moving from Boston where the wildlife consisted of pigeons, squirrels, skunks and Norway rats, the Florida wildlife outside my door is awesome. It is like being in the Wild Kingdom. You never know what you will see.
Living on a golf course with several ponds, I have seen peacocks, hawks, sand hill cranes, armadillos, wood storks , all kinds of waterfowl, deer, wild pigs, a river otter the size of a seal, and of course, an occasional alligator.
As a clueless newcomer, I learned the hard way that feeding any animal was a no-no unless I wanted to personally witness Darwin’s survival of the fittest in action. Fair game in the animal kingdom is fair game.
The trendy birdfeeders I bought when we first moved here, acted like a Fast Food slaughter house, as we watched Mother Nature’s food chain in action. Larger birds (ducks, cranes and limpkins) ate the bird food that spilled on the ground as did squirrels, fruit rats and other birds.
Frequently they were watched silently by a variety of very large, beautiful hawks who are not into birdseed. They need fresh live meat every day, to survive. Any animal at the feeders was fair game. Hapless mourning doves were frequent appetizers as were squirrels. Turkey vultures did carcass cleanups.
Ducks who liked dining at sunset, could be dinner for an occasional alligator who lived in a nearby pond. When I saw an alligator watching the ducks one day, it became obvious that the bird feeders had to go. Feeding wildlife causes chaos, and I ceased being an accomplice to murder. Also alligators are above us on the food chain and we don’t want them around.
We have learned to coexist with the alligators by simply staying away from any fresh water pond or lake and never going into the water. Any channel or pond probably has a gator. We never feed them and are careful of pets and pet food left outside.
Alligators generally are shy and hide from humans, but occasionally one will take a walk in the neighborhood to seek out a new home or look for a girlfriend in the next pond. Rarely do they wander into yards, but if this happens, trained trappers or the police quickly respond and dispose of the critter.
An alligator loose in the neighborhood is usually no big deal as it happens infrequently, but things are changing. So far my neighborhood has been OK but we are concerned.
There is a serious new problem developing in some Florida neighborhoods, where there are empty foreclosed homes with pools. Alligators are moving in.
Alligators need tall grass, a body of water and food. Food can consist of birds, rodents, dogs and cats. Empty foreclosed properties with uncut grass are ideal. The gator can hide all day and check out the neighborhood at night for food.
Pools fill up with the frequent rain, and any remaining chlorine in the water evaporates quickly. The water gets murky and the gator has a nice place to swim, hide and stay cool.
Neighbors are frantic, and fear someone will get hurt. They are demanding something be done. Police and trappers are doing their best, but the problem is growing.
The banks who own the empty foreclosed homes, are responsible, but many let the properties deteriorate. Forcing human families out of their homes after foreclosure has created a new kind of squatter, a particularly dangerous kind.
Maybe it is “pay back.” The alligators always liked the neighborhoods and were there first. They are only repossessing what once was theirs.