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.