1…2…3 Gator Mounds & Their Protectors
Twenty million years as a resident of planet Earth, and counting…. Scientists believe that the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) resembles animals that inhabited our planet as long as 100-150 million years ago — and that they may be linked to creatures dating 50-65 million years ago, managing to avoid the extinction that killed off the dinosaurs, their prehistoric contemporaries.
I’ve posted images of alligator courtship, several on the gator babies (with more on the way — updates to our wetland babies!) — but we now have alligator nests to watch. At least 3 nests in one wetland preserve alone — with the momma gators keeping diligent guard. Alligator nests (or mounds) are built by the female, and comprised of vegetation, sticks, and mud. They’re usually located in a sheltered spot in or near the water. She lays 20-50 eggs, and covers them under more vegetation which heats as it decays, serving to incubate the eggs. The female will remain near the nest throughout the 65-day incubation period, protecting it. If a mother alligator is killed or removed, she can’t protect her nest or young — dooming the hatchlings. *Leave wildlife alone!*
It’s always wise, and healthy (wink) to know what a gator nest looks like (see below!), if you’re a hiker in our area — momma will most definitely be nearby!