They menace from both land and water.
Long mostly pond and swamp things, they have now also become a beach hazard.
And when a 10-foot gator emerged from the surf onto the Folly sand on May 14, a contractor of the S.C. Department of Natural Resources was dispatched to the scene, where he dispatched the apex predator with a pistol.
After public objections to that execution without appeal, DNR ended its association with the gator slayer.
Clearly, many of our kind, and not just University of Florida Gator fans doing that ridiculous "chomp" with their arms, have a soft spot for those hard-and-bumpy- skinned reptiles.
Thus, U.S. gators, after a steep numbers decline put them on the endangered list, have been taken off of it with a remarkable comeback over the last four decades thanks to regulation protections.
Sure, gators occasionally bite off human limbs. In rare instances, they even kill people.
But gators also retain beastly charm from the prehistoric origins of their species.
Yes, it's still a scary shame that gators eat dogs, aka "Man's Best Friend."
My best four-legged friend is Coco the Wonder Dog, a miniature dachshund (or is there another breed in her gene pond?) obtained at minimal cost from the Charleston Animal Society shelter in North Charleston in October 2011.
She zealously chases squirrels, though so far without catching one.
At times those rats with bushy tails scurry into tall bushes by a pond behind our house, with low-but-fast-running Coco hot on their tails.
At those times, my zeal for raising gator ranks recedes.
Then again, we must share our planet with all kinds of critters. And you can share the joys of a wonder dog of our own from the CAS, Pet Helpers or other local sanctuaries of great animals ready and waiting for you.
Go to the rescues
This is a particularly timely month to adopt a pet. June annually inflicts a heavy influx of dogs and cats at shelters from folks who give them up.
Some of those choices can't be helped. In too many cruel cases, though, the driving force behind these decisions is the dilemma of what to do with your pet while going on a summer-vacation trip.
Gee, and you thought gators were cold-blooded.
So which animals deserve our survival assistance?
"Save The Whales" and "No Nukes" became familiar refrains a few decades ago.
Yet my favorite bumper sticker remains this variation on those do-gooder themes:
"Nuke The Whales."
No, we shouldn't really nuke the whales. We should, though, use nuclear as a powerful weapon in the battle to lower carbon emissions.
We also should wonder why dolphins, if they are as smart as some land mammals (people) say they are, keep swimming into tuna nets.
But hey, marine mammals, including dolphins and whales, are generally cuter than fish, crabs and squid.
My excursion with Coco to the end of what's left of the Pitt Street bridge Sunday even provided a close-up view of two manatee (another marine mammal) cavorting in high-tide marsh between Mount Pleasant and Sullivan's Island.
Another nuclear plug: If the ocean isn't getting warmer, why are we getting so many more manatee in these parts?
As spirit's Randy California wrote and sang long ago:
"It's nature's way of telling you something's wrong."
Another energy alert: As wind power rises, so does the wrath of bird-lovers over its rising death toll on our fine feathered friends.
Back to gators: Last weekend a 12-foot, 8-incher was spotted on Old Cemetery Road on Hilton Head Island. Instead of being gunned down, it was returned to the water in the Savannah Wildlife Refuge.
Now return to this opening of a catchy theme song:
"Wally Gator is a swinging alligator in the swamp."
That Hanna-Barbera cartoon, originally aired from 1962-63 on ABC, stars unthreatening Wally as a good, albeit zany, gator guy.
Here in 2014, another "Godzilla" film is a blockbuster about a lizard-like hero.
OK, so real gators, unlike Wally, don't water ski. Nor do they, like Godzilla, walk on two back legs, shoot streams of fire from their mouths and save San Francisco.
Real gators do, however, inspire a primal human allegiance of sorts, despite the chomping perils they pose.
But can we at least inflict mass slaughter on blood-sucking, disease-spreading mosquitoes?
Experts say no. Why?
Liquidating skeeters would remove their essential larvae from the bottom of the aquatic food chain, which eventually climbs up to gators, which taste like chicken.
So watch out for the proliferating gators in our midst - and even in our surf.
And pass the cocktail sauce.
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is email@example.com.
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