Thanks for sharing your memories of those fishing trips, James! Gators are amazing creatures — so primitive and wild. Although I can’t say I love them, I do respect them and become distressed when they’re killed because of the actions of stupid people.
Honestly, I probably would not have moved when I am, on a man-made lake, if long-time residents hadn’t assured me that no gators have been seen there. I don’t want to wake up and find one on my back porch or at my front door as has happened other places in Florida! And, in spite of their assurances, I don’t allow my little dog to walk on the shores of the lake.
With that said, unless it’s mating season when both the males and females can be unusually aggressive or when there is a lack of natural food for them in an area, gators mostly want to be left alone. As you said, they slip quietly into the water to get away from us. Gators become a dangerous nuisance when humans feed them causing them to lose their natural fear of us or to mistake a dog for a treat or when we encroach on their habitat. Unfortunately, with so many homes built around the lakes and rivers that are homes to gators, there is no way to avoid the run-ins between humans and gators.
The worst story I know is the one about the child grabbed by a gator at a Disney World resort. Tourists, especially those who come from areas that don’t have alligators, would not know that any body of water in Florida may be home to those reptiles. There were no posted warnings. Hotel management did not warn guests of the possibility of gators. It was not the fault of that family and certainly not of the child. They had every reason to believe the swimming area was safe. The hotel management and the local wildlife management are to blame for the death of that child.