Thursday, June 23, 2011

Of Cartoonists, Alligators, And Ravenous Minnows

Despite yesterday’s much needed rain, the Texas Hill Country continues to be in the clutches of a fairly severe drought. As I observed during our last severe drought in 2009, when the waters of Lake Travis recede, all kinds of strange things come to the surface (Lake Travis Time Machine). This year, however, in addition to the usual collection of old tires, dated beer bottles, and lost anchors, there was something quite unusual which made its appearance -- a dead alligator.

A fisherman made the discovery last Tuesday somewhere around Emerald Point. The Lower Colorado River Authority has apparently confirmed it was, in fact, an alligator. It appears that the unfortunate creature was hit by the propeller of boat engine.

TPWD: American Alligators in Texas
Alligator sightings this far west into Texas are extremely rare, yet, in a report on the “Distribution of American Alligators in Texas,” prepared by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) in 2002, while Travis Country was portrayed as being outside the “general range” for alligators, it was included in a so-called “pocket habitat” range (Alligators). In this range, the TPWD asserted, small populations of alligators “may represent remnant populations from a former range or from released American alligators.”

The report seems to verify what local officials believe to be the case about the dead alligator found last week in Travis County. That being, that the alligator was probably released into the lake by someone. When this story came to light, a friend of mine reminded me about the last time there was a commotion about alligators in Lake Travis.

Back in the 1970’s, a young University of Texas student wrote an article in a campus magazine which claimed that another student had released hundreds of small alligators into Lake Travis. This caused quite a stir around the lake community, and the young author finally admitted it was a spoof when he was besieged with concerns from anxious property owners and federal agents. That type of creativity eventually brought that young student fame as a cartoonist. He was, in fact, Berkeley Breathed, who went on to create the popular newspaper cartoon, Bloom County.

Whether or not there are additional alligators in Lake Travis is certainly not going to stop me from taking my traditional evening swim in the lake. In my opinion, there are other things in the lake which are far more troublesome, like those pesky little minnows that like to nibble on my arms and back when I’m in the water. I personally think those ravenous little nibbling fish should be the main topic of discussion around the lake instead of all the fretting about a single stray alligator with its big razor-sharp teeth.


  1. It's been awhile! I've been looking forward to your writing. Nice to hear from you again!

  2. Thanks Mindy! I appreciate your comments. Yes, it's been a busy year, but I've got a lot of stories in the hopper, so keep checking back! All the Best. Bob

  3. I didn't hear about the dead alligator. Makes me almost glad my pond is dry right now!

  4. Barbara, well, these things show up just about everywhere from time to time it seems. Thanks for reading my blog, and thanks for your comment! I appreciate it. Bob

  5. Between the Lake Travis fish with oddly menacing teeth which don't bite humans and the 6 feet long catfish that are reminiscent of something uncontrolled in nature, it is good to keep in mind that the Colorado River as it flowed into central Texas was known in the 1800s for alligators. Alligators and crocs like calm water, especially the Colorado River area of Houston where several can be found.