Wild Waters | American Alligator

The state reptile of Florida, the American Alligator. The American alligator is federally protected by the Endangered Species Act as a Threatened species due to the destruction and degradation of wetland habitat.

Predation is not uncommon in the wild, eggs and hatchlings are a food source for many wildlife species like raccoons, wading birds, and larger alligators.

In the early month of April alligator courtship and mating occurs from May through June. Once the courtship subsides, the females will begin to build a mound nest that consists of soil, vegetation, or debris. Females will lay anywhere from 32 to 46 eggs in late June or early July. For 60-65 days the eggs are in incubation. When late August or in early September hatchlings begin to break out of their shells. Mothers are very protective of their young and will do so until they are around two years of age.

Photographing Alligators
by Alice Mary Herden

Know when the mating and nesting seasons is an excellent opportunity for photographing alligators. It is also imperative to know for your safety.

Note.. alligators can leap forward up to 8 feet.

The mating season may occur around April through June, and the nesting season can fall from June through August and may even stretch into September.
During those times, stay a good distance from any river banks, swamps, ponds, or lake edges. Why? Simple, it’s mating and breeding season.

Most photographers may not have a chance to photograph the birth of hatchlings, but they are an incredible part of wildlife when they are this young. Sometimes they are tough to see since they hide within the debris surrounding the gator hole. As a reminder, mothers will protect their young, and if you see little hatchlings out and about, you’ll know the mother is not far away. Stay clear. Give her respect and space because not all of her young will survive past this stage.
Having a good sturdy tripod and a remote is helpful if you plan on staying a while. This time gives you the perfect opportunity to observe everything around you and monitor any gator movements. Monitoring enables you to learn from your observations visually and help you understand alligators’ behaviors and increase your photography-wildlife knowledge while observing at a safe distance.
Photography-wildlife knowledge means you are taking time out from always thinking you have to take photos. Learn to sit back and observe what or who you are photographing.
Another tip is to pay attention to the water because some alligators may be submerged. Observing the water movement can help get some cool shots, especially if the alligator ascends to the water’s surface.
While alligators are very patient reptiles during daytime hours, they aren’t very mobile, well except during breeding season. They are most likely to eat early mornings and at night, but occasionally will grab a mid-morning to mid-afternoon snack if the opportunity is there. Having patience can let you capture some amazing photographs of Florida’s largest reptile.
Remember, as always, keep a safe distance. Do not harass or disturb wildlife.

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