MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — A News 5 viewer captured a video of a large alligator swimming in the lake at Municipal Park in Mobile. It’s a sign of the season, alligator mating season, which runs from April through May in Alabama, according to the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
Breeding occurs in open water. Females then build nests out of plants and mud, where they lay between 30 and 70 eggs. Eggs hatch after nine weeks, and the young stay with their mother for 18 months. Alligators grow about one foot every year for their first four years of life.
Alligators are carnivores who hunt mostly at night, lying in wait for a meal, which they capture in their powerful jaws and often drown before swallowing whole. During the warmer months, including mating season, an adult gator will eat 20 pounds of food every week.
Living with alligators is part of life in south Alabama, a coexistence that is mostly peaceful. Because they are naturally shy of humans, alligator bites are rare. But there was a time when that coexistence was threatened.
“Unregulated alligator harvest throughout the South in the early 1900s threatened the species with extinction,” according to the ADCNR website.
The path to recovery:
- 1938: Alabama becomes the first state to protect the American alligator
- 1967: U.S. First and Wildlife Service puts the American alligator on the Endangered Species List
- 1987: Alligator populations rebounded enough to remove them from the Endangered Species List
Living with alligators:
As a top predator in Alabama’s wetlands, alligators play an important role in keeping other animal species in balance, according to the ADCNR. But as humans increasingly move into places where alligators live, interactions between people and gators are bound to happen.
The ADCNR offers these safety tips about alligators:
- Leave Alligators Alone – State law prohibits killing, harassing or possessing alligators. Handling even small alligators can result in injury.
- Never Feed Alligators – Feeding an alligator is dangerous and illegal. When fed, alligators can overcome their natural wariness and learn to associate people with food. When this occurs these alligators typically must be euthanized due to future safety concerns.
- Always Be Alert – When in or near fresh or brackish water, always be aware of possible encounters with alligators. Harmful encounters occur when people do not pay attention to their surroundings.
- Swim Responsibly – Alligators are most active between dusk and dawn. Avoid swimming at night, outside of posted swimming areas, or in waters that might be inhabited by alligators.
- Watch Your Pets – Pets are similar in size to the natural prey of alligators and their movements will often attract an alligator’s interest. Do not allow pets to swim, exercise, or drink in or near waters that may contain alligators.
- Photograph at A Distance – Always keep safety in mind and observe and photograph alligators only from a distance.
- Don’t Throw Fish Scraps in the Water – Dispose of fish scraps properly in garbage cans at boat ramps, fish camps, or when cleaning fish near water. Throwing scraps in the water attracts alligators and provides them with an easy food source.
- Seek Medical Help If Bitten – Alligator bites can result in serious infections. If bitten, seek medical attention immediately.
- Report Nuisance Alligators – If you encounter an alligator that you believe poses a threat to people, pets, or property, contact your local Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries office.
Alligators prefer living in water sources that do not go dry in the summer and often live in freshwater swamps, marshes, rivers, lakes, and streams. These are also places where many people like to visit as the weather warms, putting humans and alligators in close proximity. By following the ADCNR’s safety tips, you can help keep you and your family safe while enjoying the outdoors this spring and summer.
You can also report nuisance gators. Visit the ADCNR’s website to contact your regional Wildlife Office.