Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Notice: Florida is Jurassic Park

Last night, an alligator grabbed a two-year old boy whose family was vacationing in Orlando, Florida. Police have recovered his body.

Of course the Internet is in full Blame Game mode -- why was the kid playing at water's edge at night in an area with "no swimming" signs? Why did Disney just post "no swimming" signs instead of "stay the hell away -- alligators!" signs? And so on, and so forth.

I'm sure there will be a lawsuit. And I'm sure there will be a settlement. And I'm sure that there will be "stay the hell away -- alligators!" signs in that area most ricky-tick. No, I'm not blaming Disney, exactly, but that's how things go these days. And the signs do seem like a good idea.

I don't see any call to suggest parental negligence or stupidity here. The family is from Nebraska. They were vacationing in an urban area known for its "family friendliness." They weren't swimming, they were just out for a family walk along a beautiful and exotic-looking lake when a dinosaur attacked.

Yes, dinosaur. Alligators have been around for 40 million years or so. They grow up to 15 feet long and weigh up to half a ton. And they are carnivorous.

Alligators are not dumb. A species doesn't survive for 40 million years by being dumb. They've been observed camouflaging themselves with sticks so that birds will land on them to be easily captured. A few weeks ago, someone snapped a photo of the gator my wife walks past every day on her way into her office building, crossing the street ... in the crosswalk.

And yes, I said "the gator my wife walks past every day on her way into her office building." On the eighth largest university campus in the US, with a student enrollment of 50,000. Alligators are the apex predators of every body of water in Florida that's larger than a bathtub. Hatchet Creek, which runs through the campus, is a body of water in Florida that's larger than a bathtub.

They're carnivorous dinosaurs, and people fit nicely into their prey profile.

Thing is, a family from Nebraska can be forgiven for thinking that alligators are something you see at the zoo or on a tour of the Everglades, not something that notices your toddler at a lakeside tourist hotel in Orlando and decides it's snack time.

We (and in this very particular case, by "we" I mean Disney) need to do a better job of getting the word out to tourists on the alligator situation. Just sayin' ...

This American alligator is a frequent site in ...
This American alligator is a frequent site in the Graham Pond at the University of Florida (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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