A have a visitor!
Last week I couldn’t believe what I saw in my back yard. When I looked out the window, there was a large alligator eating the few oranges that were on my tiny sickly tree. After its dinner, it left. I suppose it came up here from the lake. Now I am wondering if it is dangerous to be out in the yard. Will it be back to dine on my grapes too?
While alligators usually do prefer to catch small animals, reptiles, and birds, they are reported to like fruit as well. If you want to keep the gators out of your yard, you can put up a fence that is at least 4 and a half feet tall. It if is shorter than that, the creatures can climb over it. This would be especially useful if you have pets or small children, which are the right size to be alligator prey. Normally, full grown people are left alone, due to their size. Fortunately the gators have a natural fear of man also.
Alligators inhabit swamps, ponds, lakes, and rivers. They are often seen on the shore basking in the sun during the day, while they hunt at night. However, they do have a trick which they sometimes use to catch birds while basking in the sun. They have been seen with branches and sticks piled on their heads, which they use to attract birds which are looking for something to build a nest with.
Alligators often dig gator holes whenever there is plenty of rain, so that they can wallow in them, and so that they will have water during the dry season. These holes are beneficial to other wildlife as well, since they provide water for fish to live in, and are used as a source of drinking water by animals.
The average size of a male alligator is 11 feet, with a weight of 790 pounds. However, they never quit growing, so a very old one can be larger than that. The female is smaller, usually 8 and a half feet, weighing about 200 pounds. Eggs hatched at temperatures of 93 degrees or more become male, while those hatched at 86 degrees are female.
Since people often live near areas with gators, there are a few safety tips that we all should be aware of:
- Most importantly, leave them alone.
- They do not need to lose their fear of man.
- Next, watch where you step, especially if you are in an area with tall grass or brush.
- Do not swim outside of designated areas and never swim at night. Sundown is the time that they begin to hunt.
- Always stay with your children.
- Watch pets closely.
- Never feed alligators, no matter how tame they appear to be. Their pea brains will associate people with food, and they can become aggressive.
- Do not fling fish scraps into the water, use a garbage can, Otherwise you are just feeding the gators.
However, the truth is that if we follow these guidelines, we need not live in fear.
If you have a gator that hangs out in your yard, it is not legal to shoot it. Instead, just call the Fish and Wildlife Commission at 866-FWC-GATOR.
Sandy Switek, Master Gardener & Eva Pabon, Master Gardener Coordinator