PHOTO GALLERY: Drought causes gathering of alligators, birds, turtles

Roger LaLonde Staff
An alligator suns itself, while another goes under a tree limb, left, at the H.P. Williams Wayside, along U.S. 41, some 35 miles east of Marco and Naples. Usually a watering hole for a few gators, 15 gators, hundreds of fish and turtles reside there because of the drought that leaves wildlife seeking a water refuge.

Photo by ROGER LALONDE // Buy this photo

Roger LaLonde Staff An alligator suns itself, while another goes under a tree limb, left, at the H.P. Williams Wayside, along U.S. 41, some 35 miles east of Marco and Naples. Usually a watering hole for a few gators, 15 gators, hundreds of fish and turtles reside there because of the drought that leaves wildlife seeking a water refuge.

For years motorists have stopped by the H.P. Williams Wayside on U.S. 41.

An accessible wildlife viewing platform allows visitors to see alligators, fish and a variety of other wild species.

Located five miles east of Wooten’s Alligator Farm and Wildlife Sanctuary, motorists know that the location will have alligators, but normally just a few.

But due to the drought it is a must, and go there soon. On Saturday there were 15 alligators, anywhere from 3 to 7 feet, hundreds of varied species of fish and at least 15 turtles. All there together, not bothering each other.

Sandy Mickey, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service park ranger, said that while the alligators didn’t seem to be interested, younger alligators do eat small fish and other vertebrates, while adult alligators do eat rough fish and turtles.

“Alligators are opportunistic and eat anything,” she said.

The numbers of alligators, fish and turtles in that location on the weekend was due to other parts of the Everglades not having available water.

“During any dry down period, wildlife like to congregate at watering holes and it is more evident during a record drought,” Mickey said.

“Corkscrew Sanctuary has an amazing number of birds and fish in ponds.”

Collier-Seminole State Park experienced 10 inches of rain over the weekend, including Marsh Trail.

“Just a week ago the trail was nothing but cracked dirt,” she said.

Those who go to the Williams Wayside should also take advantage of visiting Everglades City, just five miles south on U.S. 29, from the intersection of East Tamiami Trail and U.S. 29.

Everglades City was once the county seat of the new Collier County. When Hurricane Donna devastated Everglades City in 1960 the county seat was moved to Naples.

One of the historic locations is the Seafood Depot. It was formerly the Atlantic Coast Railway Depot. The Railway went out of commission in 1928, after 30 years of service. There is a small museum inside.

Billy and Crystal Potter own the restaurant. Billy was born and raised in Everglades City and can spout the history of this interesting community that Barron Collier created as his workers lived there while building the Tamiami Trail to Miami.

One guest presented his card, which said, “Former marijuana smuggler, turned drug awareness and educational speaker. He is planning a reunion in June for those who used to be in the business in Everglades City.

Make it soon to get to Williams Wayside before the rains take over.

See a photo gallery on marconews.com.

© 2011 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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