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MarshBunny Notes
The St. Johns River The Intracoastal and Beyond
Big Wally

A couple of years ago Judy and I were slowly putt-ing through the quiet lagoon where the Maples used to grow. The trees were long dead and fallen, but the trunks were not completely rotted yet, making a tall mound. We were casually looking around and were startled to recognize the shape of an alligator sunning on top of the fallen tree trunks.

The last of the Maple stand.
We were on the far side of this outcropping the first time we saw Wally.

Now, alligators are very good at disguising themselves as logs, but this was an ALLIGATOR!! He was so huge that we couldn't believe he was real. Judy thought maybe it was a fake made out of old tires and such to thrill the passengers on the tourboat from Camp Holly. We were only about 6 feet away from it, so she started splashing water at it and making loud noises.

Well, we were the ones to get a thrill - the beast suddenly rushed down the mound to the water. Since we were sitting in a small boat in the water, that meant it was coming right towards us. An alligators' normal reaction to a threat is to get into the water, but we were in a very small boat with a small motor and in water that was shallow and full of submerged tree branches...what I mean to say is that we had no place to run! Big adrenaline rush!

Since then I keep trying to get a photo of him, but Wally is camera-shy. When I don't have the camera he just lays out full length in the sun, grinning at me. When I do have the camera he always crawls into the water before we get there and all we can do is watch him swim away.

Judy won't let me get very close to him. My theory is that if we just quietly drifted near we wouldn't scare him away and I could get a nice photo. Judys' theory is that he is not the one who needs to be scared. When we get too close she starts splashing the water and banging the side of the boat with a paddle. She may have a point, but I still try.

Big Wally and Friend

We do get close sometimes - this photo would have been so great if I had had the camera ready. We snuck up the back way and caught Wally and a friend lying together. It was just past mating season so we were being cautious, and I was carefully getting to my feet in the boat to get a better shot. Wally tried to give me a good photo - he leapt up and into the water in the most Tarzan-approved style, but I missed it and only caught this photo as he slithered away. His nose is to the right of the photo and his tail goes into the water next to the tree stump. (Hold your mouse over the photo to see lines indicating where he is.)

Wallys Lagoon

Here's a panoramic of the lagoon where Wally lives. That large mound just to the right of center is where he usually suns himself. He has several places tromped down so he can catch the sun at any time of the day, but that seems to be his favorite spot. (Click on the photo to see a larger version - it's very large, so you have to scroll to the right to see it all.)


We did finally get these photos - still too far away, but at least it's something more than just the tail disappearing into the water.

We sat in the lagoon for a while waiting to see if he would come back out, but he didn't. At least this time Judy wasn't making a lot of noise to scare him away. Of course, the other week she was the one who was throwing shells at a Cottonmouth, so maybe she felt like she should indulge me a little. (I told her the next time I would leave her ass on the island with the snake. Cottonmouths are to be feared!)

Sneaking up on a 'gator larger than your boat is maybe not the best idea in the world, but luckily we aren't too good at it.

We usually catch just the tip of his tail as he slides into the water!

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