Daredevil Gator

Daredevil Gator
A cow alligator tries to climb the fence behind the Manatee County Biosolids Dryer Facility in Bradenton, Fla.

Raccoons, possums, armadillos and deer populate the rural property of the Manatee County Biosolids Dryer Facility in Bradenton, Fla. They become prey for alligators living in lakes that hold reclaimed water from three wastewater treatment plants.

A cow alligator is a frequent visitor. On one occasion, the maintenance supervisor found her lying in front of the chlorine pump room door. Fearing operators would step on her on their way out, he herded her across the street and into a stormwater retention pond — the same pond in which she has raised broods in the past two years.

"We had hatchlings, and one visited my plant," says Chris Hughes, Biosolids Utilities maintenance technician II. "He was lying underneath a crate on blocks and I thought at first it was a snake." Hughes took the baby back to the pond.

The winter temperature in the facility is 90 degrees F. One night, operators on their way to the control room found the cow alligator warming herself at the door. "She's always going back and forth across the property between the pond and lakes," says Hughes.

There is a hole in the chain link fence behind the building; Hughes has seen raccoons walking along the fence or going through the hole. Last November, he saw the alligator ambling along the fence, possibly following the scent of a meal.

"My approach startled her and she began climbing the fence," says Hughes. While he ran for his smartphone to capture the scene, she came down and resumed her journey. When Hughes returned, he found the alligator lying beside the hole in the fence like a cat waiting for a mouse. His presence frightened her, and she began climbing again.

"She almost made it to the top rail, but lost her footing and fell," says Hughes. "Her actions appeared evasive, so I returned to work, allowing her to walk away. But she'll be back. She always comes back."


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