Tag Archives: humaneaters

Musings on Alligators and Polar Bears

Polar_Bear_-_Alaska_(cropped)Alan Wilson’s Polar Bear Image (http://www.naturespicsonline.com/copyright)

We have arrived at Panacea Florida where we will stay for the next three months. This has me thinking of alligators and polar bears. Why this strange combination? Both alligators and polar bears will happily hunt and eat humans given a chance. Both alligators and polar bears are also being hunted by us. Polar bears are far north of us in our home in Canada and alligators live here in Florida in our winter retreat but have been much in the news lately due to our new government’s strong support of climate change mitigation in order to save polar bears from extinction among other fine goals.

Our host here, Jack Rudloe, lived through the terrifying experience of seeing his dog captured and eaten by an alligator. We are a short drive away from Otter Lake. He liked to start his day with a swim back then. The lake has alligators in it but he had a “I don’t bother them, they won’t bother me” attitude. One day the alligators proved they were the Master of the Lake. Jack came up from the water after his swim with his beloved dog Megan. He was ahead of her getting out of the water. She was just clear of the water when the alligator leaped out and up from the shallow water, powered by his back legs, steam roiling from his nostrils, and it snatched the poor dog and dragged it back into the water. Jack leapt onto the alligator and began a life and death struggle to save his dog. The dog lost.

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The rather innocuous cartoon style sign warning of the danger at Otter Lake

Jack wrote up the horrific tale and submitted it to Sports Illustrated. They sent it off for fact checking (something which I think rarely happens these days)  and chose an eminent scientist to review. This scientist rejected the entire article because alligators cannot rise on their hind legs or swell up or emit steam from their nostrils. Jack was fired from Sports Illustrated although he later published the article with Audubon and Reader’s Digest. As it turns out, the expert was wrong. Alligators do indeed rise up on their hind legs to leap and to grab prey. You can watch an alligator go up on its hind legs and leap in this Alligator Leap video and this Alligator hunting birds.. You can also read another expert describing this behaviour. Even the expert who originally trashed Jack would later (after he had presumably matured) wrote an article about how another expert should have been wary of making fast pedantic judgements on the observations of alligators by a non academic, nonscientist. In any case we remain fascinated by alligators and polar bears.

I do know we humans are fascinated by the idea of large predatory creatures that can and do occasionally eat us, including [warning both videos are graphic but the human is fine in the end] an alligator  biting scientist (and indicating how very smart some scientists are) and a polar bear attacking a woman.

I’ve never actually seen a wild polar bear since we are quite a bit south of their natural range. I have seen live wild alligators including ones in Otter Lake that were about 10-12 feet long. I intend to keep far far away from them.

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Ianaré Sévi‘s image of an alligator.