Why Did the Alligator Cross the Road?

American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) at the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge
Click image for greater size and detail

Honestly? I’m not sure. Perhaps he’d become bored with the pond and decided to try the ditch. Maybe he’d wakened from a nap and thought he’d take a stroll. He could have heard a rumor that a flock of appetizers had flown into the neighborhood, and a little snack sounded good. 

This much is certain. As I stood outside my car, I didn’t hear him coming, and when he emerged from the grasses, silent and purposeful, I wasn’t about to get in his way.

Watching him cross the road in front of me, I imagined him to be at least twenty feet long, even though I realized that eight to ten feet was a more realistic estimate.

After giving me one last, sidelong glance, he disappeared into the grasses and slid down the bank. Then, it occurred to me. Wherever he was going, he might be meeting friends.

Comments always are welcome.


50 thoughts on “Why Did the Alligator Cross the Road?

    1. If he’d made a sudden, 90 degree turn, it would have been a different story. Actually, if he’d stopped in the middle of the road to look me over it might have been a different story. But for that moment, I was just part of the scenery, and delighted to see him.

  1. At Brazos Bend SP, they will cross when you least expect it — and I believe they expect you to stop walking on their path when they do. (We do.). Nice shot!!

    1. I’ve heard that Brazos Bend is Gator Central, although fishing guides over in Chambers County have had a few stories this spring. I scare one up occasionally and hear that unnerving sploosh! but when this one came up the bank, crossed the road, and disappeared, I never heard a thing. Amazing.

  2. This wasn’t one of those alligators who may have ate the folks if they stopped to admire the carpet of bluebells, was it? Great shots, Linda! Such a magnificent creature, and I am very glad you didn’t become his lunch! :)

    1. Actually, this is just the sort of creature bluebell admirers are warned about — as well as anyone who wades a little too far into the grasses along pond and bayou edges. If you’re close enough to the water to be dragged in, there could be real problems: they don’t call a favorite alligator feeding maneuver the “death roll” for nothing.

    1. This is one of the most handsome alligators I’ve seen, partly because he was still wet and clean. In some of the first photos in the series, he has mud dripping from his belly, but I liked the photos that showed a foot in action.

      Even though I was outside the car, I was standing perfectly still, watching the birds. That may be why he paid me so little attention when he came up the bank: like the car, I was just part of the scenery.

  3. Makes one feels a little edgy about walking through the brush, doesn’t it? I don’t think I’d ever leave the road!

    That said, it’s a wonderful sighting and good on you for standing still and not giving him any ideas about Shoreacre Stew.

    1. Being cautious about alligators is just part of life down here. Even people who never make it to a state park or refuge may run into one. During spring, when the gators start looking for love, they’ll show up in swimming pools, on front porches, or even in the middle of freeways. Every now and then, one gets pulled out of a marina and turned over to the Parks and Wildlife people for resettlement.

      Honestly? They aren’t that interested in confrontations with humans. But when I hear a splash, or hear a low grunt or bellow, I don’t hang around to find out where or what it is, especially during mating season.

    1. This really was “right place, right time.” It never had occurred to me that alligators might saunter, but that’s what he was doing. He may have crossed the road in broad daylight because there weren’t any people around. Apart from two photographers farther up the road, there was no traffic at all — which also explains my ability to stand around in the middle of the road.

      1. I know of one in Kissimmee/St. Cloud and I believe one in Miami, but we have enough in the Everglades and Loxahatchee and the pop up in occasional pond, canal and retention pond that most people don’t go find them – they come to us. :)

  4. Better you than me Linda! It’s one thing to take a hoe and chop a garter snake as it slithers across my backyard; ’tis another entirely to take after Mr. Croc. As you pointed out, he probably has friends! Great capture, by the way (I’d have been shaking so hard this photo never would have come out clearly!)

    1. If an alligator showed up in your back yard, the first thing you should do is call your friendly alligator removal expert. They’re not to be messed with by anyone who’s not strong and smart in the ways of gators. The mothers stick with the babies for about a year, and they’re also very protective, so approaching them can be as dangerous as running into this big guy — maybe more so.

      I’ll take a nice, friendly garter snake any day — that’s a far more approachable reptile.

  5. I lie down to shoot a lot of my flowers. If this guy lived in my neighborhood the perspectives would be quite different.
    Nicely captured, Linda. Super detail in the enlarged view.

    1. We should come up with a spray like Permethrin. We could call it Alligator-B-Gone, and if it worked, we’d be rich. Truly — the threat from your ticks probably is greater than from these alligators, and our mosquitoes are more of an annoyance. As is so often the case, the trick is to know them and understand their behavior — and to be ready just in case they decide to pull something unexpected.

      I really was happy with the photos — all things considered.

  6. Gosh, do you really think he has friends? On the other hand, if he’s carousing with his buddies, he has forgotten what a tasty treat you might have been. And as Montucky said you got some great photos while he was making up his mind.

    1. If he doesn’t have friends, he certainly has had a few acquaintances along the way. The big males do tend to be solitary and territorial, but I’vee seen groups of younger ones hanging out together, and the “kids” stay together for quite some time. One thing is certain — this one felt no sense of threat. Why should he? Who’s going to challenge his right to the road?

    1. This is the first time I’ve been able to photograph one on land and in full view. Usually, I find them half-submerged in the water, and sometimes the only thing visible is their head: especially the eyes and snout. They’re lurkers supreme, that’s for sure.

      This weekend, I heard some wade fishermen discussing the seasonal influx of sharks into our bay system. They agreed that, given a choice, they’d far rather deal with the sharks than with the alligators. It seems you can discourage sharks by keeping your stringers of fish out of the water, but where alligators are concerned, you’re the one of interest, and the best thing to do is get yourself out of the water.

  7. Where is Crocodile Dundee when you most need him? With climate change, the Australian crocodile is moving further south and soon will be invading territory near Brisbane.
    They are protected and culling is done by licensed hunters who lay traps in the water’s edge. There are both salt and fresh water crocs. Some are made into shoes and handbags which I think is unnecessary. I bought crocodile steaks some years back but they looked grey. They were finally deep-frozen. The cat ate them. We are not really attracted to grey food.I

    1. The American alligator was on the endangered list for a time, but it was removed in the 1980s, as I recall. It can be hunted now, but a tag is required, and the number of tags issued varies from year to year. The rules and regulations are pretty stringent. I don’t know what they are in other states, but I’m sure they’re similar.

      There’s a yearly Gator Fest across Galveston Bay in the town of Anahuac. Like most such events, there’s a lot of music, beer, and general hilarity, but you can hold young gators, talk to trappers, and feast on delicacies like fried alligator nuggets (which happen to be pretty darned good).

  8. That ‘gator is really scary, but when I read (your reply to a comment) about them showing on front porches, the image that sprang to mind was more than a little terrifying.

    You were brave to step out of the car and take the photos, I would have taken them with the windows rolled down at best. But I suppose you and the rest of the your local community are used to seeing them.

    1. Actually, I already was out of the car, Vicki. I’d stopped and gotten out to see if I could get some nice shots of the birds in the pond, so when the alligator showed up, we both were in the middle of the road. That’s the primary reason I could get some decent photos; I didn’t have to do anything but swing around and start clicking.

      People in Florida seem to see them even more often than we do. They’re all over golf courses, for example, especially in the southern part of the state. If you want to see some sights, just do an image search for “alligator on front porch.” There even are a few where they seem to be ringing the doorbell.

  9. A most unusual pedestrian. He obviously didn’t look to the right and look to the left before crossing the road. Rules about crossing the road remind me that all through my boarding school years when we went out in groups we had to walk in crocodile formation or in croc. Why croc and not alligator I have no idea except that alligators apparently prefer to wander alone. And as for where the alligator was going, maybe he was off to join his congregation.

    1. I didn’t know until this morning that there are two sorts of alligator walk: the low walk, where they drag their belly along the ground, and the high walk, where they raise up on their legs. I realized that’s why this guy looked so different to me. I’ve never seen one doing the “high walk” except in photos.

      I suspect you did the croc walk because you had crocodiles rather than alligators. Our alligators are endemic to the southeastern U.S. We have an American crocodile, but it lives only in southern Florida. Now I’m wondering if the shoes known as Crocs have made it over there. I can imagine crocs of children shod in Crocs, happily following their leader.

        1. Actually, I just learned that a high walk is slower, and often used for moving from one place to another. That certainly was the case here. Everything you’d want or need to know about it is here. It’s a fascinating read.

  10. “As I stood outside my car…” I picked up on this one, Linda. And perchance you were standing near the door? Maybe the door was open and the engine was running? :) Great shot. –Curt

    1. Actually, the car was off and the door was closed, to keep the mosquitoes at bay. Leave a car window or door open down there, and it can be torture to get back inside when the mosquitoes (no-see-ums, biting flies, etc.) are swarming.

      No, I was just standing at the side of the road, waiting for the birds to do something interesting, when this critter came along. The fact that my first thought was of getting the photos rather than fleeing still makes me smile. Now, if that gator had stopped and given me the once-over… that might have been different.

    1. I agree. Usually I see them in the water or lounging bankside, and any photo’s taken from above. Being on the same level does provide a different, and quite interesting perspective. As I mentioned to Gallivanta, this is the first time I’ve seen one doing the “high walk,” but it seems to be quite common in photos from Florida.

    1. “Solid” is the perfect word for him, rethy. Even his feet, tail, and snout have that blocky feel, and fit him perfectly. It was a wonderful, and quite unexpected, photo opportunity.

    1. They really are something, Dina. I’m pretty glad not to have been its meal, too. I know how they go about preparing and eating their dinners, and I wouldn’t want to experience that. There have been people taken by them who’ve escaped — but let’s just say it’s not an easy thing to do!

  11. Very cool! A magnificent specimen, too.

    We have them here but I don’t often see them. You have to be in the right spot at the right time. And have a sharp eye. Ofttimes, they see you but you don’t see them.

    1. Most of the time, I either hear a splash but don’t see them, or don’t hear a thing, but see those submerged critters looking at me — with just a nose and some eyes poking out of the water. My impression is that they’re less likely to stalk prey than to take what happens across their path — such a good reason to stay alert!

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