A Lesson Worth Understanding
Guest post by Nancy Dobias
Most people have grown up with an image of Tyrannosaurus rex as THE PREDATOR to avoid if you lived in prehistoric times. It's difficult to imagine how formidable this creature would have been. I can remember golfing at Oakford and stopping our golf cart beside the grassy shoreline of one of the many ponds. Although we were parked there to look for a golf ball, we held up getting out of the cart as we watched a rather large alligator hurriedly trotting across the fairway to get to this pond. Suddenly some men who were golfing with us yelled, "Look at THAT alligator!" Naturally my thought was, "Duh, what do you think we are doing??" Because we were not reacting to the men's caution, one of them again yelled out, "Not that one, the one BESIDE you!" Well, you can't imagine how much my heart sped up when I looked down and there beside our cart was the biggest and WIDEST alligator I had ever seen--a bull alligator. Fortunately he did not react to us. Instead, his "radar" was focused on the alligator who had the audacity to enter his pond. What an experience that was!
Recently I was reading a Seymour Simon book called CROCODILES AND ALLIGATORS and in the book, he mentioned a prehistoric predecessor of the alligators and crocodiles. This one was named Phobosuchus ("terrible crocodile") and this guy may have been 50 feet long! His head was thought to be 6 feet in length and his teeth were 4 inches long!! If I thought the bull alligator at Oakford was formidable, he would have been nothing compared to the Phobosuchus.
With that in mind, it never ceases to amaze me how seemingly unimpressed the Myakka River State Park birds are as they co-mingle with Myakka's alligators....
The other day Larry and I were watching some birds "arguing" over who was going to get the snail that one of them had snatched from the water. While that was unfolding, a little bird came out of nowhere, nonchallantly approached the alligator, and then proceded to walk over the alligator! The alligator didn't even blink.
It's quite common to see the birds in and among the alligators. Yes, a tail could unexpectedly lash out...a violent lunge could occur... but it doesn't. For some reason they have figured out how to live safely with one another. Each is mindful yet tolerant of the other. It all works....
When newcomers arrive to the Myakka River, they're not as comfortable being within "strike" range of the BIG GUYS. I wouldn't say they're totally uncomfortable...just a bit wary....
Those who are more used to the BIG GUYS are more a' tuned to what they can and cannot do. No one is being foolish or inattentive. They follow their innate rules of survival. When the birds want to take a nap, they don't nap in and among the alligators. The one bird might have walked over the alligator, but he might not want to do that on a normal basis. Keeping a "respectful" distance is the key to survival.
When I'm at the park, I keep a respectful distance between me and the alligators. I don't try to take a "selfie" with one of them. I use a long lens to get up close and personal. At times it might reveal an injury that the alligator sustained. ...or at other times it allows me to notice a possible birth defect.
But the most important thing that I notice is how well THE FRAGILE and THE FORMIDABLE can live together in harmony, can live together in respect, and can somehow make it all work.