by Ruth, aka Momma Frizzle

I sometimes feel sorry for folks who’ve just moved to Florida. What they find is certainly more untamed than what they expect. We have such a polished veneer, carefully crafted by decades of alluring marketing. It’s easy to forget that underneath all the glamor, the Sunshine State is really still a wild frontier.

A glance in the water proves the point. It is an absolute truth that every body of water in Florida contains alligators. Some are huge and some are tiny, but they are always there. In the summer, alligators stay submerged in the warm water and are rarely seen. But as the water cools, the huge reptiles head for the shore to bask in temperature-regulating sunshine. Fall and winter are the best time to observe Florida’s most ancient residents. And it’s easy to do.


Yesterday, I looked out my bedroom window and found our own pond resident sunning itself on the muddy bank. It’s been a couple months since I saw him last. Like me, he appears to have grown over the summer. He’s sleek and shiny, every bit of six feet long, with a wide middle. I watched him for several minutes, until a ruckus caught my attention.

My neighbor was setting up a tent in his backyard. His two young sons were helping. My kids were running around playing tag. All of them oblivious to the gator just down the hill about 25 yards away.


This amused me. I stood there smiling and didn’t bother to warn any of them.


All the kids are Florida natives. We’ve raised them among the alligators. And black bears and panthers and coral snakes and wild hogs and black widow spiders and bobcats that roam our posh communities and landscaped lawns. For these kids, a Florida backyard is a gateway to discovery.

You can’t be too afraid here or you’d never go outside. Just be watchful and smart and adventurous. But don’t be fooled. Because even in the swankiest Florida resort, you are never that far removed from our wildlife.


Photo credit: Bear photo by Becky Erwin, photographing a black bear on my friend Tracey’s front porch this week.

About the Author
I'm one frizzled momma finding adventure and delight everyday...and writing about it! My chicken coop is full of six chicks, lots of friends, tons of books, and plenty of work. Stick around, I've got loads of stories to share.


  1. Aislinn says:

    I love the wild Florida: the palmetto, pine, and spanish moss hiding who-knows-what interesting or dangerous creature. It’s so hard to explain to people what Florida is really like, isn’t it? I think some people imagine that Florida is mostly just Disney’s parking lot accented by a couple of strip malls. I hope my little ones will get to experience the adventure of Florida some day.

  2. Holly says:

    Love it! It’s great to be so connected to the natural world that you just accept the critters that live here.

    I wonder what that bear’s golf handicap is?

    1. Ruth says:

      Isn’t that hilarious?! Black bears are all over the place right now. This week, I’ve had two separate friends snap photos of the ones in their neighborhoods.

  3. Julie says:

    So true! My neighborhood bear agrees too!

  4. [...] vegetation, and mild winters. I wonder how many pioneers and tourists have been alarmed by the realities of Florida not mentioned in the glossy [...]

  5. Michelle Harrison says:

    Love it, Ruth! Thanks for sharing with me. But I must say, the reminder of gators in the lakes (and sharks in the sea) will not help my confidence during the swim portion of my triathlons. I like to remain oblivious and believe my husband 110% when he says “Oh, no, honey, there are no gators out today. It is too hot/cold/early/late for them.” Ignorance is bliss…

    1. Ruth says:

      That is EXACTLY what I tell myself! Besides, you are way too fast for any old gator!

  6. [...] Remember snakes are vital (and beautiful) predators, necessary for keeping rodent and other reptile populations in check. They’ve shared our environs from the Beginning. They’re just too smart to be seen most of the time. So accept the fact and be thankful. That’s what we do here in Florida, which is really just another wilderness frontier. [...]