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What A Croc!

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On: Tue, Jul 13, 2010 at 11:52AM | By: Mel The Guide

Yes, we are still open, and no, the oil has not been hear (as yet). As far as we know, at this time. Today was a bit hot, but the bird life and dolphins and stingrays were all doing well in the Back Bay at Matlacha. We had our early morning nature tour and it was wonderful, as usual. Do still bring plenty of cool water, as it is hot and sunny. Now, I am not going to upset you with all the news of the oil spill. I am sure you are sadly getting that from all the politicians, environmentalists, news makers, and newscasters that are in your face every day and night, so you don’t need me, a simple kayak guide to tell you the bad news. This is a major tragedy that I pray Mother Nature will forgive us for and find a way to bounce back, as she has in the past.

So let’s talk about what else is happening this time of the year, and what you may see as you are out paddling in Florida.

Last month I wrote about a group of kids we had out from the U.K. In addition, how we had another great paddle until one of them spotted a crocodile.

So it was made of cement, to them it was a crocodile. Not having seen a crocodile in the pass I thought I should brush up on my crocodile facts. The word crocodile comes from the Greek word crocodiles, which means lizard. He has webbed feet that he tucks in alongside his body and this makes him streamlined as he swims along in the water. Crocodiles are very fast over short distances, even out of the water. Since crocs feed by grabbing and holding onto their prey they have evolved sharp teeth for tearing and holding onto flesh, and powerful muscles that close the jaws and hold them shut. These jaws can bite down with great force, giving them the strongest bite of any animal. Crocodiles are ambush hunters, waiting for fish or land animals to come close to the water’s edge, then jump out and attack.

As cold-blooded predators, they have a very slow metabolism, and go long periods without food. Crocodiles eat fish, birds, mammals, and a small crocodile or two, and sometimes a slow kayaker. Some species can get to be 16 feet long and weigh about 2,600 lbs.

On a sad note, this past winter we lost our resident crocodile out on Sanibel Island at the Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. It was found right after the cold spell we had and it was not known whether it was the cold or old age that did her in. A little closer to home in Matlacha, Pine Island, and Cape Coral we have a larger population of alligators. Both crocodiles and alligators have long and powerful bodies. Both have thick and scaly hides. The hides of the salt-water crocodiles are made into shoes, boots, handbags, and other leather goods.

It is nearly impossible to see the difference between alligators and crocodiles, if you look at their eating habits. Both spices consume small animals, like reptiles and small types of fish that are swimming by. Both may attack big birds, pigs, and wild boar if they get close to the water’s edge.

So if I see one, which is the meanest???

In general, alligators are thought as being more docile when compared to crocks. However, there are always exceptions. In addition, alligators can also get too friendly if other folks are out there feeding them. (Which is against the law.) If they are looking for food and you don’t have any you may be next on the menu.

I have paddled with many gators on the Peace River and up north on the Hillsborough and the Rainbow Rivers. My best advice is don’t aggravate them and leave them alone; observe them from a distance in the company of an experienced guide.

Did I see a croc or a gator????????

Crocodiles have long narrow snouts, and alligators have wide snouts shaped like a U. This enables him to crush animals, such as turtles more easily. Both gators and crocks have glands on their tongues that help them cope with excess saltwater. Gators, however, appear to have lost this ability to get rid of the salt and make it more likely to see them in fresh water.

How do alligators reproduce???

Kayakers Beware:June and July are the months you want to keep your eyes open out in the wild, in the mangroves, tall grass, mud banks, and small lakes. The males and females are preparing themselves to have babies.

To protect their eggs, they build their nest on high mounds of vegetation or raised banks.Most nests hold about 30 eggs; their nest provides a fairly constant incubation temperature, which determines the sex. Eggs at temperatures greater than 91°F developinto males, and the eggs with temperatures lower than 85°F develop into females; eggs in between these temperatures can be either male or females.

They hatch around mid-August, or sooner, after 65 days of incubation. Therefore, if you hear chirping noises, look out, mom is nearby.

Most alligators have a life span of 30 to 35 years in the wild, and some have lived for more in captivity.

Did you ever read in the news that an alligator ate a kayak tour guide? Probably not. Ever wonder why??

Was it because of his extensive training in the wild? His many hours on the water? No, it was not. I will let you in on the secret: The first thing you learn as a guide is you do not have to out-paddle the alligator, you only have to out-paddle the tour you are with.

Watch yourself out there and have a great summer. Let’s all hope and pray that next summer is as good, if not better than this one, and our waters are back to the way they should be. Thanks for paddling with Mel, the Guide.


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