For two months I’ve enjoyed staying on Sanibel Island, one of Florida’s most beautiful barrier islands. There are so many things to love about this special place, not the least of which is the attention to wildlife and it’s preservation.
In December my husband came home from an Audubon Society bird walk and told me about the island’s resident crocodile. She was an anomaly, the only one of her kind this far north, and beloved by all the island’s naturalists. She had been here for years. At one time the locals captured and transported her south, back into crocodile habitat, where it was felt she would be safer and happier.
She had other ideas.
Back she came, and this time, clearly outwitted by a beast with a walnut-sized brain, the island not only allowed her to stay, but made certain she was respected and enjoyed by everyone lucky enough to glimpse her. Since she liked to sun herself at a special spot at J. N. Ding Darling Nature Refuge, a special fence was built so that when she appeared (all 11 feet of her) visitors would respect her privacy. That’s where my husband saw her and took this photo.
The island croc wanted badly to hatch more island crocs, but without a male in residence, this was not to be. Instead she sometimes played foster mother in alligator nests, and was known to live under a home on Wild Lime Drive, where the owners enjoyed and respected her company. It’s said that when the local paper boy threw a newspaper too close to her nest one day, she left, removed it, and carried it out to the driveway where it belonged. The paper had teeth marks when the resident human collected it.
The recent cold wave to hit the eastern half of the U.S. was not kind to Sanibel’s wildlife. On the morning after the coldest night, I was saddened to see beaches littered with fish, a macabre aquarium of species. Unfortunately the crocodile, a senior citizen, was also unable to cope with the cold.
Sanibel will hold a memorial service for the island croc next week. At the end, they plan to serve gatorade. And that says everything about Sanibel Island you ever need to know.