About this Photo and my Experience
My photograph of this gator occurred at Black Hammock Wildlife drive off the beach road to Playalinda Beach. My mom was with me who tossed a cracker in the water (prohibited, but hey, I didn’t do it). As the alligator approached the cracker, I snapped the picture. I was thrilled with my photo because all the complementing colors between the reptile, water, and wave trail.
American Alligator / Gator Facts
The American Alligator is a reptile with a large dark to black rounded body and short, thick legs. The front limbs contain five toes/claws with the rear ones having four of them. The back or upper body has strong, armored skin with bony plates called osteoderms or scutes. Alligators are distinguished from crocodiles by their broad head and rounded snout, along with less aggressive behavior and strength. On average, female gators grow to 8.2 feet in length while males measure 11.2 feet and can mature up to 18 or 20 feet. Overall, adults can weigh from 450-600 lbs. with males reaching up to nearly 1000 lbs. Lifespan for them is an amazing 35 to 50 years long in the wild.
The rule in Florida is if there’s freshwater, alligators are present. Gators thrive in and nearby all freshwater areas like rivers, lakes, ponds, ditches, wetlands and swamps. Sometimes they inhabit brackish environments that contain a blend of fresh and salt water, but occasionally because they don’t have salt glands. Alligators mostly live in Florida and Louisiana, however they also reside in southern Texas and parts of North and South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama.
Alligators are carnivores (meat eaters) with a diet of fish, frogs, snails, crabs, turtles, mammals, birds, other reptiles; basically anything that moves in or nearby water. They have jaws with 74 to 80 teeth that bite with of force of 2125 pounds per square inch, and designed for grabbing, holding, crushing and tearing; alligators don’t chew.
When gators are about six feet long at the age of ten to twelve, they reach sexual maturity and breed during the night in shallow waters (how romantic). The mating period occurs from Mid-April to May. The female utilizes vegetation, leaves, sticks and mud to construct her nest for 20 to 50 eggs that hatch in mid-August, after 60 to 65 days of incubation. Sex of the offspring is determined by the temperature during incubation–86°F for females, 93°F for males.
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