Is There Room For Three on That Park Bench?

Guest post by Nancy Dobias

Throughout Myakka River State Park there are signs warning visitors they should not be feeding, approaching or harassing alligators.  No doubt those who might feed an alligator don't see what they are doing as "feeding."  For instance a few years ago I noticed two people stop at one of the picnic areas along the river to clean their day's catch.  What they didn't want was tossed back into the Myakka River.  They probably thought it was better there than in the nearby garbage can where the smell would get horrendous.  I wondered how many alligators they were attracting by the free lunch they were casually tossing into the river from an area frequented by those who like to sit on the nearby park benches.

Today a young couple found out what that can mean.  They were in this same area checking out the flooded conditions of the park and taking pictures of the pretty scenery.  Because it was a peaceful area, they decided to sit down on one of the nearby park benches.  They didn't choose the one that was already being overtaken by the river.  They chose a bench a little further back from the water.

To their surprise, they soon had a "guest" come up out of the river to join them....  Because their bench was closer to the alligator than this picture shows, the race was on to see who could get off the bench faster!  (I think the woman won!)

Once they determined that the alligator was taking no aggressive move to them, it certainly gave them a story to tell their family and friends.  When we arrived, they were taking pictures of their newfound "friend" who tried to crash their party. 

Although this couple was not feeding the alligators, I wondered if someone on another day might have conditioned this alligator to expect food when someone sits down on the bench. Too bad there are some people who don't understand the reason behind all those signs.

My experience with most alligators is that they don't seem to want to be around people.  When they are "spotted," they want to get out of sight.  Today we happened to notice a swampy area of the woods that was being overtaken by the river.  It was also being overtaken by an alligator who was probably laying in wait for something to come along that would tempt his taste buds.  Unfortunately we interrupted his meal plans by our presence and because we stayed longer than he thought we should, he gently submerged, slowly back-paddled to the river, and resolutely made his way as far from us as possible.  (Now that's what alligators are supposed to do!)