The alligator life history (1935) Free PDF Book (with illustrations)

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The American Alligator, although very well known throughout the territory it inhabits, is a maligned and much-misunderstood reptile, and but little accurate data has been recorded concerning its life history. Owing to the location of my home, I have had unusual opportunities to observe alligators all of my life. Avery Island, Louisiana, where I was born and have always lived, is a series of hills rising about two hundred feet above the coastal plain of South Louisiana and is located about halfway between New Orleans and the Texas line.

This happens to be about the center of the greatest abundance of the Louisiana Alligators. In my boyhood days before these reptiles had been disturbed by hide-hunters I came in contact with them constantly, and seeing them was such an every-day occurrence that no unusual notice was taken of them by the children playing and swimming in the streams.

They were looked upon as part of our natural surroundings, and we paid no more attention to them than we did to the flocks of birds about the place. Our old family home, built-in 1832 on the southwest side of Avery Island (which island covered about six thousand acres of hill and low land in its entirety, and has been the property of my family for several generations), stands upon a high hill which slopes down to the boat landing on the bayou, about five hundred yards from the house. Among the earliest remembrance of my childhood is running down with my brothers and cousins and other small boys in the warm summer afternoons to the boathouse to swim; each boy trying to see who could get in the water first.

 The bayou is about one hundred and fifty feet wide at this point and about ten feet in depth, with several shallow streams coming into it above and below the place where we swam. It is a tide-water stream and most of the time quite salty. These days the alligators in the streams about the place were more than numerous, and of course, boy-like we always took great pleasure and not a little excitement in seeing how many 'gators we could call around us during our swim. We would attract them by imitating the barks and cries of dogs and by making loud popping noises with our lips, as these sounds seemed to arouse the 'gators' curiosity, and they would come swimming to us from all directions. We had no fear of them and would swim around the big fellows, dive under them and sometimes treat them with great disrespect by bringing handfuls of mud from the bottom and "chunking" it in their eyes.

Sometimes when the tide was low we would surround on three sides a big one that might be lying on the edge of a flat, and create such a commotion splashing and jumping in the water that the alligator would crawl out on the mudflat, and we would follow him "chunking" great handfuls of soft mud in his eyes and open mouth, and on several occasions in this manner we actually overpowered them, and after trying their jaws, dragged them to the house. More often when we would drive an alligator out on a mud-bank he would stand a certain amount of pelting with mud and then break through the circle of his tormentors to the water. Then it was, "boys get out of his way, he's going to the water." And you may be sure the boys scrambled. On one of these occasions, I was pretty well mired past my knees in the soft mud and could not get out of the way and the old 'gator who was blinded with mud ran over me as I fell backward, and I still have the marks of his claws on my stomach, where he scratched me as he slid over my naked body. It was some time before I again ventured to bombard an alligator on a mud-flat.

Author:  Edward Avery McIlhenny
 Publication Date:1935

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