When I first decided to make a page on Alligators and Crocodiles people would ask me " Why Alligators? Why not bird or a cute little animal that people liked?" I chose Alligators and Crocodiles for two reasons. I love animals and these two arethe most misunderstood and the most misrepresented animals I know besides snakes, but that's another page, and I lovepeople especially little people, I have five grandkids myself, and last week I saw someone down by a pond. They were way upon the bank while their child played at the edge of the water. Knowing there are Alligators in the pond compelled me to make this page and maybe educate the people who visited my pages about the dangers of living where there are Alligators.
On my Gators and Crocs pages you will see some photos I have taken of Alligators and Crocodiles, captured and in the wild. I hope you will have an enjoyable visit and I'm hoping to enlighten you with some facts about these reptilians.
Alligators have been around for millions of years and are found from North Carolina along the coast to Texas. Their onlynatural enemy is man and were hunted to the brink of extinction in the 1950's and 60's for their hides which were used to make hand bags, wallets, shoes, and boots. The federal government put them on the endangered species list, and they have made an excellent come back. They have just recently been upgraded to the "Species of Special Concern" list, and are protected by specific legislation.
Despite beliefs, Alligators are not mean and vicious. They are very gentle creatures unless provoked, are hungry, or their nest is threatened. When something threatens their nest the Alligator will hiss and use aggressive moves to warn off the intruder. Much like a Rattlesnake will hiss and shake its rattle when something is near.
Their technical name is "Alligator Mississippiensis. The name Alligator comes from "El Lagarto" which in Spanish means"the lizard". English sailors turned it into "Allagarto" or "Allagarter" and eventually ended up as Alligator.
They can be found along the coast from South Carolina to Texas in fresh water lakes, ponds, rivers, ditches, and throughout the Everglades.
Alligators can grow to 20 feet in length with the average being 6 to 10 feet. The largest Alligator ever recorded in Florida was 17 feet 5 inches and the largest one ever recorded was 19 feet 2 inches and was killed in Louisiana in 1890. They can live an average of 40 years in the wild and 50 years in captivity.
Their ears are located behind the eyes and have a very acute sense of hearing above and below the water.
Alligators have cat like eyes with pupils that close into a vertical slit in the daytime and to round at night to let in more light. They have excellent vision even at night. In fact if you want to see if there are Alligators on a pond at night shine a flashlight across the water and the Alligators eyes will shine back as red dots on the water.
Their eyes have two sets of eyelids. The outer set closes from top to bottom, like ours, and the inner set closes from rear to front and are transparent. These are used to protect the eyes and allow them to see clearly under water. Also if the Alligators eyes are in danger of hitting against something the eyes will drop down into the head to protect them.
Alligators are excellent swimmers. They swim by tucking their legs at their sides and sweeping their powerful tails from side to side. They are able to stay under water anywhere from one to three hours depending on the activity level. When they are swimming they need to come up for air more often.
Alligators have 82 conical shaped sharp teeth. Approximately every two years they shed them and grow new ones. They don't use their teeth for chewing. When they bite down on their prey they make a serration with their teeth and shake their heads to separate it into small enough pieces to swallow whole.
Alligators eat snakes, turtles, snails, fish, birds, crabs, frogs, and small mammals, including little barking dogs. They are a sit and wait predator lying low in the water until something wanders near. Then with lightning fast movement they grab their prey. They are also able to leap straight up out of the water to get something out of a low hanging branch, like a bird, by using their tail to push them up and out of the water.
You should never---never---never feed and Alligator. Besides being against the law, and if caught you could face a hefty fine and possible jail time, you are signing the animals death warrant. Because when they lose their natural fear of humans they become aggressive and will attack to get food. Also the Alligator has a brain about the size of a lima bean which only has room to learn survival instincts. So when you feed an Alligator he does not see a kind human giving him a handout. He sees the human as a food source and can't tell where the hand out ends and the hand begins and will take the hand too. And, by the way, he won't say thank you.
There have been several attacks on humans and
pets in Florida, so when you are by a lake, river, or pond just
remember these few rules:::
1 - Be aware of your surroundings.
2 - Don't swim where you know there are Alligators.
3 - Make sure your pet is on a leash.
4 - Watch your children closely when near water.
Just remember, "The Alligator didn't eat fluffy because he was mean and viscous. The Alligator ate fluffy because hewas hungry and fluffy was a handy food source. Just like a cat will kill a bird, not because the cat is mean, but because hewas following his instincts.
Alligators are cold blooded animals, which means their body temperature is the same as their surroundings. So when it's cold they have to lie in the sun to get warm. On their backs they have a series of bumps called " scoots". They are made up of several rows of bony plates under the skin called "osteoderms". Their four chambered heart pumps blood through the vessels that run through the osteoderm so as the sun warms the surface of the skin the blood running through the vessels in the osteoderms is warmed and distributed to rest of the body. When the Alligator is too warm he gets into the water or lies on the bank with his mouth open to expel some of the heat. In the winter Alligators will dig burrows in the banks of the river and build a den above the water line, but below the ground to get in out of the cold weather and hybernate until spring.
During mating season, which is in April and May, the male will travel to find new territory and a mate. This is when you will here stories of Alligators in swimming pools, ditches, and storm drains. When they travel on land they have three modes of propulsion. The high walk, the gallop, and the scuttling belly run. And how quick are they? you might ask. They can out run a horse in the first 25 yards.
During courtship, the female will test several males. They swim side by side circling and nudging each other and rubbing snouts. The female will put her legs on the males back trying to push him down to see if he is strong enough to be a suitable mate. During mating season the male will announce his territory with head and tail slapping, bellowing, grunting, and hissing. Does that sound familiar ladies?
About two months after mating, the female will build a nest near the water. The nest is 4 to 6 feet around and about two feet deep and made with mud, sticks, and rotting vegetation, much like a compost heap. She uses her hind legs to dig a hole in the center of the mound a little over a foot deep and lays between 30 and 50 whitish hard shelled eggs then covers them. The female will stay close to the nest guarding it from predators like Raccoons and Possums until they hatch. The rotting vegetation gives the eggs the heat they need to incubate. The temperatures of the nest determines the sex of the baby gators. In temperatures between 82 and 86 degrees they will become females and if the temperature is between 90 and 93 degrees they will be males. In between these temperatures both sexes will be produced. The eggs will hatch in 35 to 45 days, usually mid August through September. When they break out of the shell the baby gators give off a yelping sound. When the female hears this she digs them up and helps them to the water where they will stay in a tight group eating small fish and insects until they are big enough to go out on their own. They are about 8 or 9 inches long at birth.
Young Alligators are preyed on by frogs, snakes, snapping turtles, Big Blue Herons, and Raccoons.
Alligators and Crocodiles
The American Crocodile (technical name-Crocodile Acutus) is similar in appearance to the Alligator except for the color, (The Crocodile is a light tan to pale gray and the Alligator is dark gray to black) the shape of the head, (The Crocodiles head is long and narrow at the snout and the Alligators is wide and more rounded), and the teeth. (The Crocodiles protrude from the bottom up and the 6th tooth is longer that the rest and the Alligators protrude from the top down.)
They also have similar mating and eating habits. Although the Alligator prefers fresh water to call home, it can be found in the brackish waters of the Everglades and other salt marshes. The Crocodile, however, prefers salt or brackish water and lives in the waters of southern Florida from around Fort Myers south through the Everglades to the Keys and can grow to be 20 feet in length. As with Alligators, the Crocodiles only natural enemy is man.
There are only 500 to 600 Crocodiles left in Florida, but according to a recent newspaper article their numbers are increasing because their habitats are now protected. Crocodiles are on the endangered species list and are protected by federal law.
The Crocodile lays it's eggs in the sand where they are incubated by the heat of the sun. The higher temperatures produce females and the lower temperatures produce males, which is the opposite of the Alligator. When the eggs hatch the female will carry the babies to the water in her mouth.
If you hear of an Alligator farm cross breeding Alligators and Crocodiles and coming up with Allidales or Crocogators don't believe it, because it can't be done, Although they are both Crocodilians they are of different specie. It would be like trying to cross a dog and a cat because they are both mammals.
The crocodile is much shyer then the Alligator. Unlike the Alligator, the Crocodile will run from humans even if they approach the nest. She also doesn't guard the nest as closely as the Alligator which leaves it vulnerable to predators like Raccoons, Possums, Foxes, and Dogs that will dig up the eggs and eat them.
Remember" Never insult an Alligator until you have crossed the river.
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