Alligators are some of the most fascinating animals found in Myakka River State park. These powerful reptiles elicit endless curiosity, awe and, sometimes, fear. Knowing a little more about alligators can help you appreciate their beauty, while also making your visit to the park safer and more enjoyable.
Alligators have been protected here for over six decades, so Myakka should have some of our state's largest alligators. But, since alligators are not measured unless they are dead, there's no way to determine the length of the park's largest reptile. The record length is 19.2', which occurred in Louisiana in the late 1800s. The park's largest alligator may be between 14' and 15' long. The number of inches between the eyes and the tip of the snout is roughly equal to the number of feet in length.
Alligators in the wild are believed to live 35-50 years. In captivity, they may live to be 60-80 years. Currently, there are no scientific methods of analyzing an alligator's age while it is alive. Young alligators grow about one foot a year until they are around 6' long. The first six years of life is the only period of time a rough estimate of age is practical.
Young alligators feed on small fish, aquatic insects, frogs, snakes, snails and crustaceans. Adults eat fish, turtles, wading birds, ducks, snakes, frogs, small mammals the find near the shoreline of their habitat, and even smaller alligators. Examinations of alligator's stomachs have also turned up objects such as stones, sticks, cans, and fishing lures.
Alligators regulate their body temperature by basking the sun to warm up, opening their mouths to cool slightly, diving into the water to cool more, and tunneling into the riverbanks to avoid freezing temperatures.
Alligators fed by humans may become dangerous, often approaching rather than avoiding humans as is in their nature. Alligators exhibiting this type of behavior are killed, so to feed an alligator is to condemn it to death.
No. However, there are three accounts of minor injuries, each a bite on the victim's leg. In one instance, the victim had a stringer of fish tied to his waist, the other two were probably a result of the victim stepping too close to a submerged alligator.
Yes. Alligator experts believe some of the alligator attacks on record may have been initiated by the scent of a dog in close proximity to the victim. The park has several accounts of dogs being attacked by alligators. Keep pets away from bodies of water, including small marshes and culverts under roadways.
There is no way to distinguish the sexes visually. However, an alligator guarding a nest is most likely a female. An alligator over 9' long is usually a male. When a light is shined on an alligator after dark, the eyes of both sexes glow red.
If you are in Myakka, it's an alligator. Crocodiles are not usually found north of Naples in the wild. Alligators have rounded snouts while crocodiles have longer, pointed snouts.
There are approximately 80 teeth in the mouth of an alligator at one time. When teeth wear down, they are replaced and an alligator can go through 2,000 to 3,000 teeth in a lifetime.
The only places in the world where you can find alligators in the wild are in the southeast United States and in the Yangtze River Basin in China.
An alligator doesn't usually travel over land unless something changes that forces it to leave its wetland. During mating season, competition with larger alligators drives younger ones to find new territory. When wetlands dry up to the extent that the animal can no longer dig to water, an alligator looks for a new home.
During cold weather, an alligator can sit at the bottom of the river for hours. But when the temperature is higher and alligators are active, they must breath every few minutes. There is a story that Ross Allen, a famous reptile handler know for wrestling alligators, could stay under water longer than an alligator during the extreme activity that occurred during a performance.
This information was derived from the book Myakka, published by Pineapple Press. For more information about alligators, visit Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission online.