Baby Gators | SEE! Blog for Teachers | 11/11/2009

November 11, 2009 | Shark Valley, Everglades National Park
 
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A seemingly alert baby alligator rests on vegetation near its mother. Born only 8 inches long, young alligators are vulnerable to a host of predators.

NPS/Pringle

 
Recent Additions to the Everglade's Family

It's a exciting time of year to be looking for new life in the Everglades. With a careful eye, some visitors are treated to a glimpse of young alligators born not long ago. Hatching normally begins in August, but can happen as late as November or even December. The mother will generally keep her young well hidden, but as the year progresses and she lets her guard down, the group of young, known as a pod, often become visible.

Mating season for mature adult alligators begins in April and May with the end of the dry season. Fertilized females build mounds out of soil and vegetative debris to serve as their nest and keep the 20-40 eggs above the wet season's high water line. A fun fact is that the temperature at which the eggs develop determines the sex of the hatchling. Conditions of 86 °F or below generally result in females, while temperatures above 90 °F generally result in males. Temperatures between these points will result in mixed sexes.
 
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With their small size and ability to lay still, young alligators are difficult to spot. Yellow bands that blur with their surroundings further help them to remain elusive.

NPS/Pringle

 
Future Kings and Queens

These young alligators, averaging around 8 inches long at birth, will only put on an additional few inches in their first year. They are particularly prone to predators during this period of vulnerability. Wading birds, snakes and even raccoons will attempt to defy the adult female and snatch the young reptiles.

The adult female works to keep the young alligators well hidden and their yellow stripes act as camouflage against the backdrop of marsh vegetation. They will normally stay near this female, or in some cases a surrogate female, for more than a year. In future years, with adequate food, they will grow as much as a foot per year. At around 6 feet in length, they will reach maturity and take their place as Everglades royalty. Some may even grow to be the 8-9 foot queens and 10-12 foot kings of the Glades.
 
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For the first year or more of their life, these young alligators will stay close to their mother. She will provide protection as they inch ever closer to maturity.

NPS/Pringle

 

Last updated: April 14, 2015

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