Alligators Can Get Aggressive During Mating Season
Alligator breeding season is in full swing in the Southeast. Already news stations throughout Florida are warning citizens to beware of aggressive alligators.
From April to June alligators become more active and aggressive as they search for the perfect partner to ensure their future survival as a species. Their lineage dates back 37 million years. They are living ancestors of dinosaurs and a sturdy species.
American alligators may travel over 1,000+ acres of space in the mating season. During this time, they have been spotted crossing through neighborhoods, backyards, and even climbing fences in their quest for a partner.
Large male alligators ensure their territory and ‘alpha’ status by driving the younger, smaller males away. They will even fight to the death on occasions. Gator fights are common in mating season. You will also see cringe-worthy battle-scars on their bodies as a result of these fights.
Why Alligators are a Necessary Part of Florida’s Natural Environment
Yes, alligators can get aggressive during mating season, but these unique reptiles should be respected rather than feared. They play a vital role in Florida’s natural environment.
Alligators control their own population and that of other species. They are also the only known natural predator to the Burmese Python, an invasive species that is gaining a stronghold in the Florida Everglades.
Alligators dig holes to use as refuge in shallower waters. These gator pits provide homes to fish and other critters, which in turn provide food for other animals. These fascinating creatures are an essential part of the symbiotic circle of life in Florida and throughout the Southeastern United States.
Check out Alligator Conservationist Savannah Boan’s Ted Talk on the more playful nature of alligators (and crocodiles) that few people know.
When Alligators Bellow
To attract the perfect female alligator and also to try to ensure their ‘top-dog’ status among the other male gators in the area, alligators will bellow.
The male gator puff themselves full of air, like an inflating balloon. This lifts their body high in the water. Then, they raise their heads and tails and let out a deep and low bellow. It sounds like a growling rumble. And the water around them will vibrate with the sound.
This mating call has the same effect as yawns do on humans (or perhaps it’s competition ;). In other words, when one male bellows, the others in the area will begin to react the same way.
However, the alligator bellow can also be triggered by other stimuli throughout the year, like low flying airplanes, loud car mufflers and Florida’s Cape Canaveral rocket launches.
Turn up your sound to hear this alligator bellow. Sound clip courtesy the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services
Beware the Gator Nest
It’s true alligators are more aggressive during the mating season, but come late June through July the female gators will lay their eggs in ground nests. They cover their eggs with mud, twigs and leaves, piled high. These nests can be up to three feet tall. They’re built with enough padding to incubate the eggs for 63-68 days.
To the unsuspecting, these nests look like mounds of debris, however, most of the females will stay to guard their nests against predators, including unwary humans.
If you are engaged in outdoor activities and stumble across a mound nest, steer clear. Female alligators with nests are known to be fierce protectors. You won’t see her by the nest until it’s too late. She will usually be hiding nearby.
Watch Out for Momma Gators
The eggs hatch in mid-August to early September. Only 1/3 of the nest will hatch and make it to their first year. Not only do eggs fall prey to raccoon and opossums, but the babies are also eaten by other alligators and fall prey to birds as well. A young alligator’s life is a precarious one. The mother will stay with her babies, guarding them against predators until they reach two years of age.
Alligator Safety Tips:
- It’s illegal to feed a wild alligator in Florida (and dangerous too)
- Don’t approach an alligator. They are fast- on land and in water.
- Don’t swim in an area with alligators- i.e. known to be inhabited by large alligators.
- Don’t swim between dusk and dawn. That’s when gators hunt.
- If you encounter an alligator while hiking or paddling, give it a wide personal space.
- Watch your children and pets around water.
- Alligators like to rest in the weeds and rushes on waterways. Avoid playing, paddling and swimming in these areas.
Gatorland Orlando offers some handy alligator safety tips (video).
Snapping an Alligator Pic
That alligator selfie is not worth the risk! If you want to get some photos of American alligators, visit one of Florida’s alligator zoological parks or farms. We can recommend Orlando’s Gatorland and St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park for their education and conservation programs.
And while enjoying the outdoors, no matter the season, be vigilant. Stay alligator aware on all your outdoor adventures in Florida.
Fun Stuff for Kids:
The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) offer these resources for kids to learn more about Florida’s American alligators.
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