AUBURN, Ala. –American alligators, once on the verge of extinction, have made a remarkable recovery. Alabama’s largest reptile, alligators can be found across most of the southern third of the state and has also been confirmed farther north but not in large populations. They live near lakes, rivers, ponds and sometimes creeks. An expansive population of alligators call Lake Eufaula home.
Jordan Graves, an Alabama Extension regional agent in forestry and wildlife, said that it is hard to name a main food source for alligators.
“Alligators are opportunistic predators and sometimes scavengers. Their diet can consist of fish, turtles, beavers, deer and wild pigs,” said Graves. “When they are hungry, alligators will eat just about anything that comes close enough. The world record alligator had two squirrels and an adult white-tailed doe in its stomach when it was harvested.”
Alabama holds the world record for the largest alligator harvested. The alligator was caught in Sept. 2014 in Camden, Alabama along the Alabama River. This giant measured 15 feet 9 inches and weighed an astonishing 1,011.5 pounds. Male alligators in the wild on average will grow up to 11 feet 2 inches and females will grow up to 8 feet 2 inches long. Large males can weigh up to 1,000 pounds. Alligators in the wild can have a life span of 30 to 50 years..
According to Dr. Craig Guyer, a herpetologist at Auburn University, an alligator can reach speeds of 10 mph on land and 20 mph in the water. While they cannot sustain these speeds for a long period of time, they are still dangerous. Guyer said you could walk up on a mother protecting her nest and she may have an aggressive reaction if you walk too close.
“Alligators behavior varies geographically. Alligators in the Okeefenokee Swamp are at the nest about 65 percent of the time, but at some Florida sites nest attendance is only about 15 percent of the time,” said Guyer. “Females are known to rush at humans who wander too close to a nest, but there are cases reported in which people approached the nests with no reaction from the female. So, the behavior is quite variable.”
The Alabama 4-H Science School has two young alligators in its wildlife collection. The 4-H Science School uses its live animal programs to teach about the state’s biodiversity and to foster interest in environmental stewardship.
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