See Ya Later… ALLIGATOR!

….and there he was, tucked comfortably within the bubbly wall of splash, the cutest little alligator this side of Jurassic Park. “You starting to get the picture, Bucko?” #1-13 asked sarcastically as she watched the drama unfold with the rest of the chicks about 50 feet away.

Now, if we were in the movie, “Caddy Shack,” which by the way, is a must see for anyone dealing with pests, human or otherwise, while endeavoring to understand the true meaning of the universe, we would simply drain the pool.  But we’re not, so into the water we went, Hilary on one end of the net and me on the other, as we stretched it out to its full length and began pulling it across the pond.  Our first trawl… nothing.  But on our second, as we beached the net, there he was with a giant thought balloon above his head which said, “Two hundred million years and I’m the first gator to be caught by two idiots wearing white costumes!  Bummer!”


It was then that I heard playing in the background the national anthem of my world, “What Do We Do Now?” I had been taught at a very early age to stand at attention with my hand over my heart whenever I heard it played, but some days all that standing at attention just eats up my whole day!  Guess I must have slept through that “Alligator Catching 101” class in college.  Fortunately for me, Hilary was no stranger to “The Wonderful World of Animals That Can Bite You.”  Her world at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is filled with them.  Like the other five zoo keepers who have assisted us during this winter’s crane monitoring who work daily with animals like tigers, hippos, komodo dragons, rhinos, 16 foot Nile crocodiles and a whole lot of other serious critters that go bump in the night, she is a true professional.  To her, our little visitor was not exactly heavy lifting. In no time she had his jaws zip tied shut, slid him into a crane costume (a nice touch, don’t you think?), bound him up in a quickly improvised plastic mesh cradle and was carrying him out of the pen.


Hilary from Disney is a pro at alligator packaging

Meanwhile, I was on my cell phone calling a Hollywood producer and making arrangements to have the gator shipped to the Hollywood sound studio where they film “Swamp People.”  Turns out it’s right across the street from where they film the reruns of “Bonanza” for Me TV. (This week’s episode?  Ben, Hoss, Adam, Little Joe Bob and Hop Sing are filling out questionnaires for while wearing camo cowboy boots. What makes this episode even more entertaining is the fact that they’re all dead! Gripping drama!) But before I could arrange a UPS pickup, Terry, the Refuge Manager, called and suggested we bring our little TV star wannabe to the Refuge Visitor’s Center where she would arrange for his release on the Refuge.  As our pickup pulled into the parking lot, a crowd assembled and the little guy enjoyed his fifteen minutes of fame before being entered into the Witness Protection Program and released into his new home way far away from the crane pen.

Refuge Manager Terry Peacock takes the opportunity to show Mr. Gator to a small visitor before it was released elsewhere on the refuge.

Refuge Manager Terry Peacock takes the opportunity to show Mr. Gator to a small visitor before it was released elsewhere on the refuge.

That evening, we watched from blind as normalcy returned to the marsh and our little band of cranes lined up to roost comfortably in the pen. Just like old times. What a difference a day makes. The lesson here is simple. In the crane world, just as in the human world, actions speak louder than words. All you have to do is listen.

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  1. lilbirdz March 7, 2014 8:16 pm

    I am so very glad that alligators can’t fly! Hilary is an impressive woman, reminding me of the “can do” attitude of all the Operation Migration folks.Nifty story-telling, Brooke.

  2. Rick March 7, 2014 12:22 am

    Clever chicks and a job well done…without even having to call the Gator Boys!

  3. MA March 6, 2014 7:56 pm

    We should have guessed “Gator” Thanks for the “story” and the happy ending.

  4. Big Dan and Little Jan March 6, 2014 6:34 pm

    I think there is a Reality show in the making. I know Brooke loves cameras based on my conversation with him last Sunday.

  5. lynne ellis March 6, 2014 1:13 pm

    Oh I loved it!!! great story telling had me hanging on the edge of my seat!!

  6. Jill Brubaker March 6, 2014 12:23 pm

    What an exciting story, and a happy ending for all – that doesn’t happen all that much.

    I want to offer thanks to Brooke for a wonderful presentation last Sunday at the Wildlife Center – we could have listened for hours! Brooke, you have many admirers from all over the US!

  7. geri buffington March 6, 2014 10:48 am

    I love happy endings! Thank you for all you do.

  8. Deanna Uphoff March 6, 2014 9:56 am

    Thanks for the great update. Our cranes sure knew something was up. Glad the mystery was solved and taken care of.

  9. Marje Lloyd March 6, 2014 9:27 am

    well done Brooke and Hillary, and what clever chicklets knowing to keep away from the critter,
    So wonderful to know they are so well protected for their first winter

  10. Emily Jayne March 6, 2014 8:39 am


  11. LindiLovesBirds March 6, 2014 8:22 am

    I am so glad all ended well and the cranes are safe and not gater food. Glad you and Hilary knew what to do.

  12. Lisa Tart March 6, 2014 8:12 am

    It’s amazing how intelligent the animal kingdom really is-some call it instinct-it’s still an awareness between right & wrong. I am glad the crane’s were “smart” enough to “sense” the presence of the gator!

  13. Rose March 6, 2014 8:10 am

    Great Bonaza ending.. Could of been an episode of Rifleman..
    Than we know what would of happened to the gator:)
    Great job!

  14. Lynda Johnston March 6, 2014 7:46 am

    Awesome!! You-all never cease to amaze me!

  15. Carolyn Cofer March 6, 2014 7:29 am

    Well done!

  16. Jeanne Plumb March 6, 2014 7:08 am

    Wow! It’s comforting to know, though, that the birds can take care of themselves. That’s cool! My desire to be a volunteer someday, however, has just kinda disappeared. I never considered that I’d be wrasslin’ with gators one day! Great story – again, Brooke. Thanks for sharing!

  17. Ruth Mitchell March 6, 2014 6:45 am

    Wow!!!! What an adventure!!! Good think our Whooper babies are smart enough to stay far away from the critter!! WTG Babies!!!! WTG!!!!
    And and Hilary are our heroes!!!! Thank you for all you do for our precious little ones!!!

  18. Warrenwesternpa March 6, 2014 6:40 am

    See Ya Later … Alligator, Brook Pennypacker

    That was interestingI Brooke. You were talking a small alligator. I held a ‘small’ one at the Everglades last February, about a foot long. I applaud Hiliary bundling that critter. Obviously you are all well trained in those endeavors. What an entertaining day you have given us. Thank-you!!

  19. rose March 6, 2014 6:34 am

    I love your stories of the perils of keeping them safe.

  20. Kay March 6, 2014 6:32 am

    Awwww. What smart little cranelets. I was silently betting that an alligator was causing all that thrashing and other scary stuff, But how on earth did he get in the pen? It’s ginormous in comparison with the travel pens, but it also has that Fort Knox feel to it — at least if you have between two and four legs. Was the gator able to dig under it? . . . And, by the way, where did the second Big Boy go to? It seems that only one guy has been mentioned lately. Am I wrong?