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      Nature Report: Alligators Among Us

      Lurking in the murky shallows of this Cameron County pond, a pair of alligators stealthily approach the shore in hopes of snatching prey that ventures too close to the waters edge.

      Nobody knows just how many of the toothy gators prowl the muddy waters in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, but there is a thriving population of American alligators at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge and on adjoining ranches.

      In early morning and late afternoon the imposing reptiles can be seen basking on the banks, and some of them easily exceed ten feet in length.

      Alligators and their predecessors have been roaming the earth for some 200 million years, but is a matter of conjecture as to how long they have lurking here in South Texas.

      An 1898 volume of the U.S. National Museum states alligators occur as far south as the Rio Grande, but some believe the Nueces River was historically their southernmost realm.

      The American alligator does not reside south of the border, but Morlet's crocodiles occurs eighty miles south of Brownsville, however no documentation exits of the crocs ever making their way into the Rio Grande.

      Whatever their origins, the Valley has harbored a relatively small population of alligators along the coast at least since the 1970's. Periodic surveys on refuge lands have yielded as many as 110, but their numbers fluctuate depending on drought.

      They do occasionally show up in the bay and Arroyo Colorado, and since the lower Valley's system of resacas and canals are all interconnected it is best to be on the lookout for the big reptiles.