American Alligator

American Alligator

 

*During the early 2000’s, Linda Adams, a former resident of TGO, wrote a series of articles for the TGO Nature Center titled “a Page From Nature”.  This article about the American Alligator was a part of that series and was published in 2001.  The original article did not include any photographs so I added a photos.  Enjoy!

 

TGO Nature Center, Nature, The Great Outdoors, Titusville, Florida, Education, Reptile, Alligator, Gator, Photo Album

Photo Courtesy of Hobie Kurtz

 

Mature alligators seek open water areas during the April-to-May courtship and breeding season. After mating, the females move into marsh areas to nest in June and early July, remaining there until the following spring. Males generally prefer open and deeper water year round.

Sexual maturity is dependent on the size of the alligator, and both sexes first reach sexual maturity when they are about 6 feet long. In the wild, this takes about 10 to 12 years; however, in captivity, under ideal conditions, alligators can reach sexual maturity much sooner.

After mating, females construct mounded nests of whatever vegetation is available. In late June and early July they lay 35 to 50 eggs, although nests have been found with only a single egg. After laying, the female covers the eggs with a layer of vegetation. Throughout the 65-day incubation period, females remain nearby, and defend their nests against predators. In Florida, raccoons are the predominant egg predator.

As young alligators get ready to hatch in mid-August through mid-September, they begin to make high-pitched grunting sounds. The females respond to these calls by using their mouths and forefeet to remove the nesting material covering the young, thus liberating the 6 to 8 inch hatchlings from the nest.

Hatchlings remain in groups called “pods” at least through their first winter and may stay in the vicinity of the nest for two to three years. Female alligators may defend their young until the next summer.

The first two years are the most critical in the life of an alligator. Eighty percent or more may fall victim to wading birds, raccoons, bobcats, otters, snakes, large bass and even larger alligators. Once an alligator exceeds 4 feet, it is relatively safe from predators, but still may be vulnerable to cannibalism.

To see more photos of Alligators, click on this Alligator Photo Album link.

 

TGO Nature Center – “Living in Harmony with Nature

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