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The cool temperatures of autumn mark the beginning of alligator season in many parts of the country. These large reptiles are a popular sightseeing attraction, and fall is an ideal time to see them in their natural habitat.
Alligators typically begin their mating season in May and lay their eggs in June and July, making autumn the perfect time to observe these unique reptiles as they go about their everyday lives, and see how they play a role in the cycle of life in the swamps of Louisiana. If you’re interested in learning more about alligators and their life cycle, be sure to read on.
The journey of an alligator starts long before it ever sees the light of day. For approximately two months, alligator eggs incubate in nests comprised of sticks, dirt, and vegetation, absorbing vital nutrients from the environment that will help them to grow. Around mid-August to early September, the eggs begin to hatch, and baby alligators emerge from their nests.
These tiny reptiles are incredibly vulnerable at this stage in their lives, and many succumb to predators or die of exposure before they reach adulthood. Temporary submergence in water after a storm is tolerated by these baby reptiles; extended submergence for 12 hours or longer after the first 30 days of incubation, on the other hand, resulted in mortality.
Once the eggs are ready to hatch, baby alligators give off high-pitched noises from inside, signaling the mother alligator to dig them out of the nest and carry her babies down to the river in her jaws.
While storms might not be too much of a problem, predators like raccoons can pose a serious threat during and after incubation. These animals are known to eat alligator eggs and even babies before they have a chance to grow up.
However, those that do survive have the potential to live up to 50 years and grow to be on average 8 to 11 feet in length. It is truly amazing to think that such a powerful creature begins its life as a fragile egg, but that is just one of the many wonders of nature.
What do Baby Alligators Eat?
Once hatched, baby alligators will need to find food in order to survive. Thankfully, these interesting creatures are born with a full mouth of tiny, sharp teeth that they use to quickly snap up insects. As they grow, they shift towards a diet consisting of worms, frogs, and crabs. However, their diet is not limited to these small critters; as they continue to mature, adolescent gators will begin eating small fish, amphibians, and even small birds.
In fact, as alligators reach adulthood, their diet continues to expand. They can be observed eating muskrats, nutria, beavers, raccoons, large birds, fish, snakes, turtles, and even deer — basically, anything that can’t eat them first!
Baby Alligators During Winter
Once hatched in early Fall, baby alligators will stay close to their protective mothers for the first two years. Alligators are ectothermic, meaning they rely on external sources of heat to regulate their body temperature. In the winter months, they brumate, which is a type of dormancy where they bury themselves in mud and slow down their metabolism.
Although they are mostly inactive during this time, they can still be seen basking in the rays of the sun on warmer winter days. So if you’re looking for a unique winter activity, an excursion through the swamp is a great way to spot some alligators. Just be sure to dress warmly!
Come Join in on the Fun and Book a Honey Island Swamp Tour Today!
In addition to seeing alligators in the wild, visitors can also learn about the species and see them up close. If you’re looking for an amazing experience that is both educational and exciting, be sure to add alligator watching to your list of activities and book a New Orleans alligator tour with us today.
Our knowledgeable staff will guide you through the incredible Honey Island swamp and help you learn all about the fascinating creatures that call it home. You’ll see firsthand the beauty of this unique part of Louisiana and walk away with long-lasting memories of your time spent here with us. We can’t wait to share the Honey Island swamp with you!