With the arrival of warmer temperatures alligators will be on the move. This creates a very exciting time for us! Although we do see a few alligators during the winter (on warmer days), it is a much desired time to be able to see a lot of our old friends and favorites.
This time of year alligators are coming out of their "brumation" (a state or condition of sluggishness, inactivity or torpor exhibited by reptiles during winter or extended times of low temperatures). Alligators do not "hibernate." It is like "dormancy" where they react to cold environments by slowing their metabolic activity to a minimum to conserve energy. Alligators are Ectothermic. This means they rely on outside sources to regulate their internal temperature. That is why, even in the winter, they will bask on days of sunshine.
In the time we have monitored alligator behavior we have found that there are some alligators that we see every year in the same habitat. Some will even come and leave their habitats on specific dates. We have noticed one in particular that will not come to a location before Memorial Day and will leave on or very near Labor Day. We have not seen him before or after these dates. We always get excited to see specific alligators make it through the winter and return year after year.
They are also entering the mating season among other things. They are active this time of year and females on a nest can be very aggressive if approached. Traveling from habitat to habitat for mating, establishing their own territory or just moving around can create more human alligator encounters. For those who like them (or like us LOVE them), it is a fun time to enjoy and observe them. For some it is a cautious time. We understand that not everyone likes them or understands them.
With that said we want to offer some safety tips;
Be aware on, in or near water
- Alligators are opportunistic hunters. They prefer to wait for prey to get close and lunge to seize it. Everyone should be very aware of their surroundings near the water's edge. The embankment area, where land meets the water, is often covered in vegetation in which an alligator can hide, making it the reptile's favorite lurking place. Remember, the smaller the potential “prey” (such as a child or pet), the more attractive to the alligator, simply because it is easier to take.
Avoid swimming in water known to be inhabited by Alligators
- In the water you look much smaller to an alligator. Never enter water at night. Alligators are most active, especially for seeking prey, from dusk until dawn. The fact that you can't see well in the dark makes for a more dangerous situation. Remember that any body of water has the potential to house an alligator (even temporarily).
Never approach an Alligator
- Even a baby or a nest. Mother alligators are well known to be practically fearless when defending their offspring, whether they have hatched or not.
Share your knowledge
- If you see something that puts alligators, people or pets in danger, please share it. Speaking up for the safety of ALL promotes a greater appreciation of alligators and
our place in THEIR world. Teaching people is beneficial to help get the truth out and not rely on what society has taught us about these marvels of nature.
Now we would like to share with you some of our returning favorites this year!
The NCWRC has finally issued a draft of the Alligator Management Plan the Alligator Task Force has come up with. The NCPARC (North Carolina Partners In Amphibians And Reptile Conservation) is holding a PR&T (Policy, Regulation & Trade Working Group) meeting on Thursday, May 11th, from 1-4 pm. Allen Boynton from the NCWRC will be there to to go over the plan with us.
We are asking that if you are a member of the NCWRC or NCPARC (or any group or individual that has the ability to attend the meeting), please do so in order to give input for the Alligator Management Plan. We have received a draft copy and without saying more than allowed, it looks like it definitely needs some input from outside sources.
We will post another blog after the meeting to keep those interested updated as much as possible.
John & Lisa McNeill