Tuesday, May 24, 2011

New Resident at Goodson Lake

Yesterday, while guiding part of the film crew for Expeditions with Patrick McMillan (show will air in October), we discovered a new resident at Goodson Lake at the end of the 1.75-mile boardwalk at the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest.  A 3-foot American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) slid off the bank across from the observation tower and loitered on the water's surface closer to the tower.

At various times, though not ever pictured together, two alligators reside in Goodson Lake.  There are many more than that in the swamp, but alligators prefer deeper water in which to escape or from which to spring an ambush attack and they desire sunshine.  Along the boardwalk, sunshine is difficult to obtain due to the tree canopy 100 or so feet above.  Therefore, alligators are almost always found in the holes where water is consistently deep and present thereby preventing tree growth that would block the sunshine.  The two alligators normally seen in Goodson Lake are much larger than the new arrival.  One alligator is bulky and in the 8-10 foot range, while the other alligator is slimmer and in the 7-8 foot range.  It is possible that the new 3-foot alligator is staying on the observation tower end of Goodson Lake to avoid the two larger alligators.

Tracks in the mud, feet and the dragging tail, show that the smaller alligator arrived via the main creek channel that runs just northwest of Goodson Lake.  It is possible that the lower water level in the swamp has caused alligators to congregate in holes where water remains and the smaller alligator may have struck out to locate less-crowded and/or safer accommodations.  If its presence is not tolerated at Goodson Lake, the smaller alligator may continue upstream along the relatively-deep main creek channel.  In the process of moving upstream, the smaller alligator could find itself in the pooled water behind the beaver dam.  Although not a natural hole in the swamp, the area behind the beaver dam and under the power line right-of-way mimics the characteristics of a hole...sunshine and consistently deep water.  Beavers beware!

There is never a dull moment in the swamp!

Images by Mark Musselman

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