P1000558

Alligator mississippiensis

Native

Designated as official state reptile of Florida in 1987.  This little over 6 footer is smaller than the average adult,  adult females reach about 9 feet and males much longer.   In 2011 and 2012  we saw few alligators on the creek, mostly juveniles.  However, there are gator trails into the water.   We inadvertently came across this gator, sunning itself on  November 20, 2012, in a small inlet while we were searching for a  plant to photograph.  In 2013 we have seen more gators, at least one every time we paddle the creek, and in May we saw three large ‘gators crossing the creek, submerging as soon as they detected us.   There are now more small branches off the creek, not deep enough to paddle far, but they extend into the woods.

From the Florida Fish and Wildlife fact sheet:  “Juvenile alligators eat primarily insects, amphibians, small fish and other invertebrates.   Adult alligators eat rough fish, snakes, turtles, small mammals, and birds…Courtship begins in early April, and mating occurs in May or June.  Females build a mound nest of soil, vegetation, or debris and deposit an average of 32 to 46 eggs in late June or early July.  Incubation requires approximately 60-65 days, and hatching occurs in late August or early September. …Alligators are ectothermic — they rely on external sources of heat to regulate their body temperature.  Alligators control their body temperatures by basking in the sun, or moving to areas with warmer or cooler air or water temperatures.   Alligators are most active when temperatures are between 82 (degrees)  to 92 (degrees) F…They stop feeding when the ambient temperature drops below approximate 70 (degrees) .. and they become dormant below 55 (degrees).   Alligators are dormant during much of the winter season….they occasionally emerge to bask in the sun during spells of warm weather.”

p1230151

Photographed November 10, 2016.

Less than 2.5 feet alligators.

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