(Iris H., this is your story. You asked for an alligator and a kayaker. Here you go…)
“A” is for Amos, an American alligator. Born in captivity, at the local wildlife center, Amos was raised by humans until he was about two feet long and able to feed on his own. Amos claimed the swampy end of the lake, near the mouth of the river, as his primary territory and never really left the area. He doesn’t need too. Enough gator food passes through to keep him well-fed and happy. Eventually Amos stopped growing, now he’s somewhere around fourteen feet in length and 875 pounds, more or less.
Amos was captured, weighed, measured and tagged with a GPS chip five years ago. Near the end of his expected lifespan, Amos is not as fast has he used to be, but at 15 m.p.h. he can outswim anything else in the water. Being so big and so old, Amos has achieved legendary status among the locals and trappers.
One of Amos’ distinguishing features is the smile-shaped birth mark on his round, black snout, all of his upper teeth visible. Visitors to the lake mistake it for a friendly face among the reeds. Signs posted at the mouth of the river warn swimmers, canoers and kayakers of the dangers of getting too close.
“A” is for Amy. Amy grew up on the lake and still lives in her parents’ home. Working toward a master’s degree in fish and wildlife management, Amy is founder of the group, Friends of Amos. She formed the group after Amos’ last weigh-in. Amy is one of a small band of conservationists with the sole purpose of helping Amos survive the hand-held snares, harpoons, gigs, snatch hooks, and other devices allowed by the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission during alligator harvest season.
“A” is also for anyone with a permit and an alligator trapping license. As one of the oldest and largest alligators in the river, Amos is always in the crosshairs of this group. Taking Amos would elevate the trapper to legendary status.
Trapping is only allowed on designated Friday and Saturday nights. Amy and Friends work in pairs, donning life vests and helmets with lanterns. Every weekend during the harvest, they hop into their kayaks and paddle out to the area of Amos’ GPS tracker. Amos’ Friends always know exactly where he is doing his “floating log” imitation. They shine a light into the marshy shoreline and look for a red reflection, or eye-shine, inches above the water line.
Working in four-hour shifts, the kayakers paddle around warning trappers that Amos is off-limits. This does not sit well with over-zealous trappers. But Amos’ friends hold their own, pointing harpoons at the enemy. The Friends don’t rest until the sun peeks over the reeds, signaling another successful night-watch. Amos lives for another day.
At the end of harvest season, Amos will celebrate his forty-seventh birthday, more or less, with a cadre of his best buds from Friends of Amos. Every year they sing happy birthday and toast Amos from a safe distance. Amos doesn’t say much, but he does flash his smiling snout and lower one eyelid, winking at the group as they paddle away.
Shine on Amos, shine on.
Although this story is fiction, it is based on information found on the following websites:
Did You Know?
- In 1987, Florida declared the alligator the official state reptile.
- Florida’s Nuisance Alligator Program permits the killing of approximately 7,000 nuisance alligators each year.
- Since 1988, Florida’s statewide alligator harvest has been nationally and internationally recognized as a model program for the sustainable use of a natural resource. Each year, alligator management units are established with appropriate harvest quotas to provide recreational opportunities for Floridians and non-residents who are at least 18 years old to take up to 2 alligators per permit.