Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Gator-Frenzy Video Creates Buzz About Stephen Foster State Park

It didn't happen in Treutlen County, but you don't need to miss this video from our Georgia swamp.


Now, you will want to read more:

FARGO, GA, July 27, 2010  --  Gators galore!  A Georgia fisherman’s video of a rare alligator “feeding frenzy” is bringing unexpected attention to the Okefenokee Swamp.  Ray Cason of Homerville had just launched his boat at Stephen C. Foster State Park on July 10 when he documented hundreds of alligators feeding in a narrow canal.  His short video was posted by the Clinch County News and has since been picked up by Southeastern media and viewed by nearly 50,000 people.

Imagining themselves in Cason’s boat, people tend to have one of two reactions: “Get me outta here!” or “Quick, where’s my camera?”  For those eager to see alligators and explore the mysterious swamp, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources is offering advice for a good visit.  Rangers are reminding tourists that such massive gatherings of alligators is extremely rare, prompted by low water levels that force fish into small areas.  Visitors are almost sure to see alligators, but not in a large gathering as shown in the video.  Typically, alligators are solitary animals that slip under the black water when boats approach. 

The footage was shot in the small canal that leads from Stephen C. Foster State Park’s boat basin into the main channel of the Okefenokee Swamp.  Visitors can bring their own boats or rent them from the park when water levels are high.  However, when water levels are as low as they are currently, boat rentals may not be available.  Park staff encourage visitors to call before traveling to determine if canoes, kayaks or motorized jon boats can make it through the narrow canal.  For their own safety, pets are prohibited in all boats.

“People don’t realize that alligators will go after dogs and other pets,” said Park Manager Travis Griffin.  “They aren’t interested in adults in boats, but they have been known to go after fish on rods and poles.  This is why we tell anglers to not put stringers or fish baskets in the water.”

Feeding any wildlife in the Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge is illegal. Griffin emphasized the danger of feeding alligators because they learn to associate people with food.  He recommends that visitors admire the giant reptiles from a distance and keep their hands and feet inside boats.  Children should not play near the water’s edge.

The famous swamp is in a remote part of southeast Georgia, so visitors usually stay overnight.  Stephen C. Foster State Park, which is the main western entrance, rents nine fully equipped cottages with kitchens, bathrooms, screened porches and grills.  Campers can choose from 64 shaded sites nestled among Spanish moss and saw palmettos.  Because the nearest grocery store is 18 miles away, guests are encouraged to bring all supplies.

Stephen C. Foster State Park also features three miles of nature trails and boardwalks, a small gift shop and museum. Park gates are open 7 a.m. until 10 p.m.  Spring and fall are the most popular times to visit, so guests are encouraged to make reservations in advance.  Summer is the slowest season, due to heat and biting insects.

The Okefenokee Swamp is considered to be one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Georgia. It is the largest blackwater swamp in North America, and one of the largest in the world.  Visitors come from across the globe to paddle the still, tea-colored water that reflects blue sky and cypress trees.  Birders can look for wood storks, white ibis, great egrets, green-backed heron, marsh wrens and more than 200 other species.  Visitors might also see black bear, white tail deer, raccoon, red fox, bobcat, opossum, fox squirrel and other species.

Before You Go:
Stephen C. Foster State Park
17515 Hwy. 177
Fargo , GA 31631
(912) 637-5274

Park Hours: 
7 a.m. – 10 p.m. (gate locks at closing; no late entry)

Office Hours: 
Fall/Winter 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Spring/Summer 7 a.m. – 6 p.m.

$5 Entrance fee per vehicle.
$25-$28 Campsites
$125 Cottages

Visitors are encouraged to leave pets at home because they are not allowed in boats, even privately owned watercraft.  Dogs are allowed in the campground and only in select cottages with advance notice.  Never leave pets unattended in vehicles.

American Alligator Facts

Alligators eat fish, birds, turtles, snakes, amphibians, raccoon, deer and even black bear.

The temperature at which alligator eggs develop determines their sex. Those eggs which are hatched between 90 and 93 degrees Fahrenheit turn out to be male, while those in temperatures from 82 to 86 °F end up being female.

The breeding season begins in the spring. Although alligators have no vocal cords, males bellow loudly to attract mates and warn off other males during this time by sucking air into their lungs and blowing it out in intermittent, deep-toned roars.

Alligator Fact Sheet from Georgia Dept. of Natural Resources:  http://www.georgiawildlife.org/node/270

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