Alligators are wild and dangerous animals and should be regarded with extreme caution. This hazardous characteristic may be part of their attraction. The species has been in existence almost unchanged for tens of millions of years. They are survivors even in the face of human encroachment in their space. Because of human activity the survival of the alligators is threatened. Despite the apparent stillness they can react very quickly. They eat meat and can take down an adult deer, otter, turtle, raccoon, iguana another alligator or anything else which comes its way in a short distance reach. The bulk of their diet is probably rats or mice. This is our fresh water apex predator. This posting is a prelude to a posting that will later describe a relationship of the alligators and a specific bird nesting location.
Every morning I look out to the pond at the house and see the local “gator” cruising the surface of the water with just the eyes and nose above the surface. On occasion, they will haul themselves out to lie on the grass usually within 20 feet of the bank. If it sees a person it quickly slips back into the water. Obviously the alligator in the pond is not the same throughout the season because it is variable in size however there they are very territorial. Usually only one at any time be seen. On rare occasions a larger one will walk out of the water and cross the street, perhaps to find a more solitary place to or to find a mate during mating season.
Alligators are aquatic reptiles which live on and near the ponds, creeks, streams, swamps or just about any other piece of water. They tolerate brackish water but not oceanic salt water. They are ectothermic (cold blooded) and regulate their body heat by sunning or shading, breathing, resting in the water.
They are relatively solitary, meeting to mate in late spring. Occasionally one can hear the slapping and bellowing of a male in the swamp at night as it tries to attract a female. After weeks of gestation the female may lay as many as 60 eggs in a ground based nest approximating the water. The nest is covered with a blanket of leaves which hold the heat of the day. The hatchlings break through the shell and emerge after three months. The new born are vulnerable and protected by the mother from predation for as much as a year. The survival rate to maturity is about 15%.
They have complex social lives in the wild about which very little is known. Much of their behavior studies are based on observations of captive animals. The maturation stages are egg, hatchling, juvenile, sub-adults, mature.
American alligator Identification marks:
- Blunt nose
- Black in color
- Upper teeth show when mouth is closed
- Yellow marks on young
Later we will compare alligators and crocodiles both of which can be easily seen at the Naples Zoo.
Alligators appear to be so primitive and powerful; and they are. Awesome!
See these references from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for a more comprehensive description:
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