As the weather turns warm, salty shores up and down the coast flood with beachgoers hoping to catch some spring rays. In Dauphin Island, Alabama, one unexpected bodysurfer joined in on the fun – a “curious” alligator who appeared in the sea and swam right up to shore.
When visiting Dauphin Island, Matt Harvill and his girlfriend hoped for sand, sun, and maybe even a dip in the sea. What they didn’t expect was a trip to the “beach and zoo at the same time.”
So when a fellow beachgoer warned them of an alligator sighting ahead, they could hardly believe their ears, forging ahead to get a look for themselves. To their surprise, there it was – the roving reptile appearing completely at ease among the crashing waves.
“It was just a very beautiful day – my girlfriend and I were just spending some time on the beach when someone mentioned it,” Harvill told WBRC. “So, we walked down to get a better look and snap some pictures.”
“It’s not every day something like that happens. We see them in Dog River and the Bird sanctuary. Almost never in the Gulf like that. I knew if I didn’t get pictures no one would ever believe it.”
Thankfully, the Alabama native was wise enough not to walk right up to the alligator, choosing instead to film it from afar. Though crocodilians are highly unlikely to give chase to a potential threat, maintaining a distance of at least 60 feet ensures that the gator stays calm and you stay safe.
Alligators are common in Alabama…just not in the ocean
With an alligator population of around 70,000, Alabama is no stranger to giant reptiles, at least in the southern half of the state. Spotting one in salt water, however, is a different matter entirely.
Unlike their larger relative, the saltwater crocodile, who can thrive in both fresh and salt water, alligators and salt water don’t mix. While they can tolerate the salty sea for a few hours or even days, they must return to the safety of freshwater if they want to survive.
Like humans, alligators lack salt glands. As a result, they steadily lose water and increase the salt in their blood system, which will lead to stress and eventually death. To explore the sea, a gator must keep its nostrils and mouth shut to keep the salty water out.
That said, there aren’t many places a hungry alligator won’t go in search of a snack. When they do catch a fish, they tilt their heads back to drain the seawater before swallowing their meal. Gators have even been spotted munching on sharks!
This, of course, isn’t typical alligator behavior, in Alabama or otherwise. Gators usually stick to the fish, frogs, birds, and mammals that venture too close in the rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, and swampy areas in which they reside. But what better place to enjoy a seafood dinner than the ocean?