Unintended Consequences…

Earlier this week I was watching this alligator as it slowly floated around in the marsh pond. I could immediately tell something along the edge of the pond caught his attention as he started going into a stealthy stalking mode. I figured he likely spotted a crab or big fish and was headed over to see if he could snag it. There was some sort of pink colored debris there in the reeds that I had previously noticed, but I didn’t think the gator was interested in that. Well it turns out that was precisely what caught the alligator’s attention and once he grabbed it and lifted it up, I recognized it as a pink rubber flip flop sandal.

At this point I assumed he would bite down on the shoe, realize it was inedible, and spit it back out. But to my surprise he proceeded to carry the flip flop out from the reeds and back into the pond…however I was still waiting for him to discard rubber shoe. What happened next to…my horror…was that the alligator chewed down on the pink sandal a few more times before finally gulping it down whole!

This can not be good I’m thinking. I know that alligators will pick up and sometimes eat all sorts of things but I’m not sure if it can successfully break down and pass a rubber shoe, or if it will clog up the alligator’s digestive system. After swallowing the flip flop the alligator floated over near to my location and had a bit of a confused look on his face as if he was trying to decide if perhaps eating that shoe may not have been a wise decision. I’ve been keeping my eye out for him in the past couple of days and will continue to do so.

So these are the unintended consequences of leaving things behind…particularly in an area where wildlife is present in significant numbers. Someone loses an item such as this then leaves and thinks nothing of it. Later an animal finds it and the seemingly innocent act of dropping a rubber shoe could end up causing injury or possible even death to that animal. Plastic beverage bottles are another concern. We routinely pick up such discarded trash carelessly left behind by those that are there to admire nature and it’s creatures. It is our hope that people will stop and think about how one small casually discarded item could potentially affect an animal even such as a large alligator. 

Alligator Finds Flip Flop

Alligator Finds Flip Flop

Alligator Finds Flip Flop

Alligator Finds Flip Flop

Alligator Finds Flip Flop

Alligator Finds Flip Flop

Alligator Finds Flip Flop

Alligator Finds Flip Flop

Alligator Finds Flip Flop

66 thoughts on “Unintended Consequences…

  1. People are so careless with their rubbish. I frequently see the plastic bottles you mentioned Phil, discarded netting from fishing boats, people who really should know better, cans, yes, flip flops, all sorts. Such a danger to marine life. You really would think that people would have more sense or respect for their surroundings not to just toss stuff to one side and keep walking but they do it all the time. 😦

    • Yes sadly we do see this way too often Adrian as you say. We are hoping that this particular flip flop was in fact accidently lost and someone didn’t purposely toss it at an alligator. It happens more frequently then you might expect. People see an animal in nature and suddenly all common sense goes right out the window.
      Thanks for looking I appreciate it.

  2. Preach Phil! I hate when I see trash laying around a road, in a pond – virtually anywhere it may catch an animal’s hungry eye. Hopefully this alligator will be able to handle the pink flop. He must have liked it, since it wasn’t one of those old Croc sandals. 🙂

    • Thanks much for that because right after I wrote this I wondered if I was being too ‘preachy’. 😕
      Well I sure hope our alligator friend will be able to pass along his bright pink find.
      If you were there when this happened do you think I could have talked you into jumping in and taking the flip flop from him?! 🙂

  3. Oh, no, Mr.Aligator, I hope it wouldn’t be problem for you. But I know this kind of materials can’t be digested, they are not good. Dear Phil, pink again 🙂 but a sandal this time… Thank you dear, love, nia

  4. Why oh why don’t human beings think about the consequences of their actions?! We have this problem in the UK as well, people just leave their rubbish anywhere, rather than bag it and take it home. Little creatures get stuck in plastic bottles, cans, etc, birds get their beaks stuck in ringpulls on cans and bottles. The worse thing is leaving plastic bags behind. I remember so well the baby turtle defying the odds to make its way down to the sea on your New Year blog. The thought of it and others like it, dying after mistaking plastic bags in the water for jellyfish, is heartbreaking. Sorry to go on, Phil but it makes me angry that people can’t have more consideration for the creatures with which we share this world of ours. Thanks so much for reminding us all.

    • Too many times I have seen birds with fishing line or some other discarded material stuck on them. It can mean a slow painful death for a bird or animal if it can not fly or eat. Very sad situation. Just last week I saw a spoonbill dip his bill into the water and come up with fishing line in his mouth. I was horrified, but thankfully within a short amount of time he was able to spit out the line and the hook did not stick in him.

  5. Hopefully the gator passes it easily. It really sucks when people are careless like that. First, seriously? Who walks around in marshes in flip flops and thinks they’re not going to lose them. Second…Way to point out the importance of environmental awareness. Those photos scream the message loud and clear.

    • That’s what we are hoping as well Jan. I will continue to keep a lookout for this alligator but we may never learn it’s fate. However if I never see a dead one anytime soon I’ll conclude he made it fine.

    • We were almost kind of laughing when we first saw him pick up this ridiculous pink shoe thinking he would never really try to swallow the thing. But sure enough he did and we do hope it will not adversely affect him.

    • Thank you I’m glad you liked the photos. I was happy to be getting them at first because I never thought that alligator would really swallow the pink flip flop. Hope it doesn’t end up hurting him.

  6. http://www.chrisjordan.com/gallery/midway/#CF000313%2018×24
    You have made a very good point along with the great images. The link above really affected me when I first saw the pictures of dead Albatross on Midway island having consumed plastic debri. It might be easy to say that animals should know what is edible and what is not, but they respond to visual cues of color and context when they grab something. (A nice pink spoonie maybe?) We humans are the ones who need to have the discipline to not leave trash when we enter the natural domain. Pack out what you pack in. The issue of islands of plastic trash floating around in the ocean is another matter of concern and such a shame that people allow it to happen. Obviously cleanup is too much work. Shame. Thanks for making the point as it is a valuable reminder of our thoughtless habits and their consequences.

    • Thank you very much Judy for your kind and thoughtful comments. We do suspect that pink color lured him in. Do alligators see color? We now strongly suspect they do indeed. Maybe he did have thoughts of a spoonie, it could be. I know alligators will also pick up goofy objects and sometimes carry then around but that makes it all the more important not to leave trash and other debris around where it can effect wildlife.

  7. Spero tanto che l’alligatore non soffra molto e riesca a digerire la plastica che ha mangiato. Purtroppo ci sono troppe persone che non hanno nessun rispetto della natura e degli animali che in essa vivono e quindi lasciano ogni tipo di spazzatura ovunque senza farsi nessun problema. Tienici informati se ti è possibile. Grazie!!!

    • La ringrazio molto per la vostra gentile e commenti premurose lo apprezzo. Ci auguriamo che anche l’alligatore non soffre e lui rimane in buona salute. Saremo guardare per lui e per tenere tutti informati.

  8. A timely reminder of how we sometimes share the neighbourhood. I recall you had another shot like that but I assume the gator didn’t swallow it. I wonder why the difference.

  9. I hope it turns out well for the gator, Phil. I echo your sentiments about litter. An amazing amount of the stuff enters the environment and much of it is just litter, but the percent that affects the life in that environment causes great harm. Most comes from careless people who can’t be bothered picking up after themselves which is an awful statement about society.

    • Well we have not seen any deceased alligators in the area yet anyway so I hope he make sit OK. He could likely pass it but that rubber is virtually indestructible and will not break down easily so I’m concerned.

  10. This is so sad. I too pick up things left by fishermen on my hikes, like beer cans and plastic soda bottles. They also leave tangled fishing line and hooks too. I know a photographer out in San Fransisco that does the same thing when he kayaks. He photographs turtles, seals and otters. These animals too pick up plastic items. I have seen an autopsy of an alligator and what was in the stomach was so many trash items. TV sometimes has shows like this and it really makes an impression when seeing what harm can come of being careless.

    • Yes fishing line and hooks particularly are a huge problem. Many a time I have seen birds (especially pelicans) with that stuff stuck in them. Last week I saw a spoonbill pick up some line and then happily spit it out.
      The whole situation is sad though.

  11. Thank you so much for this post. This is something we all need to see. Careless actions have consequences. I hope this gator will be alright.

    One of your devoted followers,
    Sharon Watson
    Columbia, SC

    Sent from my iPad

    • Well thank you very much Sharon I greatly appreciate your very kind comments and so happy to see you here.
      We are hoping the big boy will end up making out OK and the flip flop does no damage to him.

  12. I hope he’ll be ok. It’s valuable for people to see this, and hopefully understand what carelessness can bring. An animal eating something not fit for consumption.

    Alligators I know nothing about. I know sharks can eat almost anything and live. Let’s hope it’s true for this guy, too. 😦

    • We were thinking of that about sharks, how they find them with all sorts of stuff in their stomachs like license plates and so on, but don’t know if the same holds true for alligators. I know the gators will pick up goofy stuff but a virtually indestructible rubber shoe concerns me.

  13. This miserable thoughtlessness of some people makes me terribly angry! 😦

    Good that you want to pay attention to Mr. A.! I hope he throws out the stupid flip-flop without getting sick!!!

    • It makes me angry as well! 😦 I do hope that our friend Mr. A can get rid of that pink shoe and be OK. He has a fall and winter upcoming so he will be sleeping a lot anyway.

  14. You wouldn’t believe some of the trash I find (and pick up) at our beach. Good message in this one. People really need to be more aware, though I suspect some are simply hopeless.

    • Oh I would believe it as we see it so often on our beaches here. Plus I think the state flower must be a cigarette butt because they are literally everywhere. I guess people think it’s OK to toss those because they are small?!?
      You are right though, for some it’s sadly hopeless.

  15. I have posted several times on environmental trash in nature. This is an effective post to get out there, Phil. Though the photos can be disturbing, it is a reality of our society. We can all take measures to do a better job!

  16. Sure hope this alligator will be OK. You and others make very good points about the trash people leave around that animals can eat or get snagged by. After googling a bit, it seems like alligators might be able to expel indigestible items, similar to the way some raptors do. But those things shouldn’t be strewn around in the first place.

    • I really do hope that is the case Lee, and our alligator friend will be able to simply pass the rubber shoe.
      So far so good anyway, we have not seen any deceased gators out there.

  17. Now I’m wondering “Where is the body and the other flip flop?” 🙂 There’s only one acceptable reason why the flip flop should have been there, and it doesn’t bear thinking about. People should be more careful. I hope Mr A didn’t get indigestion.

    • We have had inquiries regarding the previous owner of the pink shoe but so far no results. 🙂
      We were quite sad to see our good pal Mr. A actually consume the flip flop when we expected him to just leave it.
      Hopefully he will suffer no severe consequences from some person’s carelessness.

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