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Shell Shocked: Alligators: Sanibel’s National Reptile

By Staff | Jul 1, 2011

I never tire of writing about alligators because they seem to be the main topic of conversation in Sanibel. They enliven beach, restaurant and cocktail party chatter.

They make for lively if not disconcerting reading in the news columns of the Islander.

Alligators bring out the jungle in us and make us forget the cold, lonely winters in Minnesota or Iowa. Alligators come with the territory. If you’re committed to Sanibel, like I am, you have to come prepared to talk or think about alligators some part of every day and come to terms with them. For example, my wife and I were taking a stroll on the beach recently when she stopped suddenly.

“Isn’t that an alligator over there,” she asked pointing animatedly.

She was eyeing something about a hundred yards down the beach while balancing herself on the balls of her feet as though she were ready to run the hundred yard dash in world record time. My eyesight is fairly normal but I had to squint hard to see what she was pointing at. It looked like a dead log to me, not a live alligator — and I told her so.

“No,” she insisted. “That’s an alligator. Look at those mean eyes. You’d better call the police. Hurry.”

I took a few steps closer to get a better look and my wife screamed at me. “Are you crazy? Do you want to get your toes bitten off? Call the police or else that alligator’s going to eat us all.”

I tiptoed closer to get yet an even better look while my wife screamed something about it’s a good thing I had made up my will recently. Sure enough it was a dead log. I poked it just to be sure.

“See? It’s not an alligator. It’s a piece of wood. You’re like the boy who cried wolf. You could have panicked half the beach,” I said.

My wife was not to be denied. “Well it could have been an alligator. And if it were, don’t you think you were a little too blase about the whole thing? From where I first spotted it, you couldn’t really tell if it was or wasn’t. Better to be safe than sorry.”

I couldn’t win. If it was an alligator I didn’t take it seriously enough. And if it wasn’t an alligator — get the drift of my meaning? But put my wife in another setting and a whole different set of dynamics takes place. Put her in Ding Darling Wild Life Preserve and you’d find her whistling a different tune.

“We’ve been walking for a half hour and I haven’t seen a single alligator. What kind of wild life preserve is this anyway?” she complained.

“But dear,” I tried to explain. “Alligators don’t walk around with signs around their necks saying here I am, pet me and play with me. They’re wary of people as well they should be. Besides I thought you’re afraid of alligators.”

Her explanation seemed perfectly plausible to me. “On the beach I am. Here I’m not. This is where they live.”

Go try to figure that one out.