by Cheryl Conley, TWRC Wildlife Center
Although TWRC Wildlife Center does not rehabilitate alligators, they are, nonetheless, a very fascinating animal. Alligators are not uncommon in our area and are normally found in freshwater including swamps, marshes and lakes. Saved from extinction, it is estimated that alligators first roamed the earth 150 million years ago.
FAST FACTS ABOUT ALLIGATORS:
- Alligators are the largest reptile in North America. Adult females can reach nearly 8.5 feet long while males can grow to 11.5 feet. They can live to be 50 years old.
- Alligators normally only attack humans that are in what an alligator considers “his” territory or if they feel threatened. They will, however, attack small animals such as dogs and cats for food. Alligators are almost totally carnivores but will ocassionally eat fruit.
- Their mating season is mid-April through May; clutch size is 20 to 50 eggs; gestation takes 60-65 days. The sex of the young is determined at birth depending on the outside temperature. Lower temperatures produce females with higher temperatures producing males. Baby alligators, or hatchlings, can hunt for their own food immediately after birth but will stay with mom for two years before going off to start their own families. For the first few months of life, baby alligators often fall prey to raccoons, bobcats, and sometimes other alligators.
- Alligators have up to 80 teeth and if teeth are lost, they will grow back.
- Alligators use their muscular tails and are used to propel the animal through the water. They move rather slowly when on land.
- Their nostrils are upright which allows them to breathe while swimming underwater. Often times the nostrils are all that can be seen when they’re in the water.
- The skin on the back is serves as armor and is embedded with with bony plates called osteoderms or scutes.
- Humans are their only predator but their biggest threat is loss of habitat and polluted waters.
If you see an alligator but it is not posing a threat, leave it alone. Wait a few days to see if it moves on. You may see an alligator basking in the sunlight on riverbanks. If its mouth is open don’t be alarmed. This is how alligators cool themselves. If an alligator moves aggressively towards you or if you see an alligator near homes or animal pens, call Texas Parks & Wildlife for removal. Remember, never feed an alligator. It’s a Class C misdemeanor and it could cost you up to $500 in fines.
TWRC Wildlife Center is gearing up for a busy spring! If you love wildlife and want to make a difference, check out our website for volunteer opportunities—www.twrcwildlifecenter.org. We are also in need of your donations so we can continue to help injured and orphaned wildlife.