I am amazed at how fearful most people are of alligators that are found here in the Wilmington NC area. This is one of the most common questions I get when I am leading a kayaking adventure. Yes, we should have a healthy respect and view these wonderful creatures from a safe distance. However it amazed how the fear keeps some people from exploring the majesty of God’s Creation just because they may encounter one of these animals. As a boy growing up in gator country of central Florida, you learned to understand the amazing creatures. So, like any good Boy Scout here are some facts about alligators that my help you know more about this magnificent creature, and be prepared on what to expect when you see one.
The American Alligator is the most prevalent of the three species of crocodilians found in the US. The Gator’s range from North Carolina down to Florida and then around the Gulf Coast to Texas.
There are very few American Crocodile and Caiman that can be found in the extreme southern part of Florida mainly in the southern portions of the Everglades.
Gators live in freshwater wetlands and coastal brackish waters. Their diets mainly consist of fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. They are more known for their savaging for food than hunting and attacking larger prey.
Mating season beings in May as the spring warms up and the females will lay their eggs in June, with the eggs hatching in last July.
Between 1948 – 2004 there were only 391 injuries and 18 deaths caused by alligators in the US.
Alligators are active both day and night, but mainly feed at night and resting during the day light hours digesting their meal from the night before.
Don’t let your pets swim in known waters where alligators live. The alligators will see the smaller pets at natural prey.
Dispose of fish scraps in garbage cans and throwing fish remains in the water can attract alligators. Also, do not feed alligators.
For those of you who grew up in Boy Scouts, you will know that the “Scout Motto” is to “Be Prepared“. This was drilled into me during my days as a scout and I can say, most great scout troops still place a great deal of emphasis on this. To be honest, one of the biggest things that gets to me is watching the vast majority of people take off with their kayaks are woefully unprepared for what they are fixing to do.
This was brought home to me this past weekend when I saw a young couple jump out of their vehicles, toss their kayaks in the water and jump in and go! No PFD, no sunscreen, no WATER, no clue to the weather coming or going, much less of the river currents that will affect their paddle. When I pointed out the oyster beds they were fixing to walk into, they could care less (yes, they had no shoes of any kind on). I could only imagine that they had a less than pleasant time on the water.
It is because of this lack of proper preparedness that I write the next blog. I hope over the next several weeks to add additional blogs that will help you be “Prepared” when you head out on your next adventure.
Here are some very basic things that need to be considered before you take your next kayaking adventure.
Always try to plan for the unexpected “what ifs?” What if I get delayed? Lost? Injured? Am I prepared to cope with that?
Always have a map and compass with you. This means that you know how to orientate the map and use the compass, so make sure you learn basic map reading and compass navigation skills before you head out on the water.
Pick a trip, even a short day paddle and study your intended route on a map at home. Doing this when you’re not stressed allows you time to become more familiar and comfortable with the unique markings of a topographic map and where you will be going.
Additional essential items that can save your life when out kayaking:
Plenty of water to drink
Matches for a fire
Dry bag for all your essentials to be placed
Float Plan. It is critical that you let someone know where you’re going, what route you plan to take and your estimated return time. If you get lost, the sooner a rescue operation begins the better for your searchers and you. If you change your plans before you start a trip, call and update someone, even if you simply leave a voice mail. This also implies that once on the river that you stick with your plan and not deviate.
Oh, I am assuming that you will have your PFD with you before you get into the water.
Mahanaim Adventures provide wonderful adventure in the Wilmington and Carolina Beach areas of North Carolina. We can also customize a guided kayaking adventure to Florida as well as any other location in the Southeast US. We specialize in creating that memory of a life time for you and your family and friends. Check out our web page and find out more details about all of our adventure locations.