ALLIGATOR ALLEY, Fla. - The email says "dress warm" but I find it hard to believe it will get cold in May in Broward County.
Then again, I've never been out on an airboat in the middle of the night. And never traveled across the water quite so fast.
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Counting alligators is quick work. It has to be. These biologists with the Florida FIsh and Wildlife Conservation Commission will cover countless miles over the next couple of weeks, logging more than 100 miles on their airboats.
We leave the dock around 10 p.m., traveling south from where U.S. 27 meets I-75 in Broward County.
The airboat, steered by Lindsey Hord, skims above the water. His spotlight pans quickly from left to right, revealing dozens of pairs of red eyes in the water.
The red eyes belong to alligators, and there are hundreds of them. We cut down one side of the long waterway, turning around near the Miami Canal. Then it's time to count the other side.
Anything can affect the alligator count, water temperature, wind speed, even the light of the moon.
The wind is in our faces, luckily keeping the bugs away. But it is cold and as I learned after three hours on the boat, it's tiring.
It's also a lot of fun and important work for FWC and anyone who hopes to hunt alligators in the fall. The information generated from the annual alligator counts is used to set limits for alligator hunting season.
After three hours and 30 miles, we return to the boat ramp. Our final count, more than 500 alligators ranging from hatchlings to the big bull gators.
For every alligator we counted, there are at least two that we didn't see.
My night alligator counting is over. What a great ride.
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