Brazos Bend State Park - All About Alligators
- How many alligators are there at Brazos Bend State Park?
No one knows the exact number, but it is estimated that about 250 or so alligators over 6' long reside in the 1000 acres of water here.
- Where can I see an alligator?
Anywhere there is water you may see an alligator. (Even in some places where there isn't water you may see them.) The biggest lakes, Elm and 40-Acre Lake, are usually the best. The best times during the year are the spring and fall. Summers are too hot; winters are too cool. They prefer the same weather we do.
- Who brought the alligators to Brazos Bend?
They've been in this area, off and on, as temperatures and geological conditions allowed for the last 65 million years.
- Has anyone ever been hurt or killed by the alligators at Brazos Bend?
Since they started keeping records (a long time) no one has ever been "killed" by any alligator in Texas. Some people have been injured by alligators in Texas but not at Brazos Bend.
- What's the biggest alligator in the Park?
No one really knows for sure. There are some that measure 15 to 16 feet in length that live here. (You don't usually live to be all that big if you're an alligator and stay where people can see you.)
- How long do alligators get?
You can guess an alligator's length accurately by guessing the distance between his eyes and nose in inches. For each inch add one foot of length. 4 inches from eye to nose = 4 feet total length and so on.
- How old do alligators get?
The oldest recorded age of an alligator is 56 years. (A zoo gator.) Wild alligators are impossible to age after they reach about five feet long, because the growth rate may vary from gator to gator and it's not as precise as when they were growing a foot a year. Wild gators probably do get over 40 or so before death catches up with them.
- Do you feed the alligators at Brazos Bend?
For the last 65 million years alligators have done a pretty good job of feeding themselves. No, we don't feed the alligators. Park visitors should not feed them, either. It teaches them to be unafraid of humans, and junk food is bad for them anyway.
- What do alligators eat? How often?
Alligators eat potato chips, marshmallows, burned wieners; anything that splashes in the water near them that looks and smells like food. (They really don't know people can be food.....yet!) They normally eat fish, turtles, frogs, crayfish, birds, and mammals such as raccoons, opossums, armadillos, rabbits, and even sometimes deer...not people. They also eat shotgun shells, beer cans, fishing corks, and rocks. Because alligators are "cold blooded" they use food mainly for growth and repair, and reproduction. The can probably go for a year or so without eating if they had to. During the "winter" they are not known to eat at all.
- Do alligators hibernate in the winter?
Not really. On cold days, they hide in underground/underwater dens, but as soon as the sun shines and its not terribly cold, they'll be out.
- How long can an alligator stay underwater?
Easily 20 to 30 minutes and they can stay under from 1 hour to 24 hours if necessary and conditions are right (i.e. they prepare slowly for those long periods, slowing heart beat, temperature, etc.)
- When do alligators have their babies?
Mating occurs in May/June. Nest building takes place in late June/early July. Hatching is about 60 to 70 days later in late August to early September. NOTE: (Mama alligator guards her nest vigorously!)
- How many eggs does a female alligator lay?
Between 20 and 60 eggs depending on her size. The average is 30 to 40. Only one in about 100 baby alligators ever lives to be 3 feet long, however. (Fish, turtles, frogs, snakes, birds, and mammals eat them.)
- Are alligators cannibalistic?
To some extent, yes. When they begin to compete for the same kinds of foods. (Little alligators eat little things that big alligators ignore.)
- Do alligators make any sounds?
Several sounds are made by alligators. Young ones make a chirping sound rarely heard in alligators over about 4' long. Larger alligators will hiss when threatened as a warning to leave them alone. Sexually mature alligators bellow (sounds like a chainsaw trying to start.). Both males and females can bellow. The males sound more impressive; the female's sound is more like "snorts" because of their usually smaller size. Bellowing is not necessarily mating-related.
- Do alligators really use their tails as weapons?
The tails are strong and powerful, but they are that way for swimming, not fighting. Sometimes an alligator might "hit" something with its tail, but probably it is an accident. An alligator often times turns to the side to bite at something, his tail moves in the same direction to help him keep his balance. So it may be said that if an alligator hits something with its tail, it is because it was trying to bite it with its mouth.
- What's the difference between an alligator and a crocodile?
- Range: Crocodiles do not live in Texas. (It's too cold.) The nearest crocodile is the American crocodile in far south Florida and he's almost extinct.
- Color differences: Crocs are grayish-green possibly to reflect sunshine. Alligators are grayish-black. This could possibly to absorb the sunshine.
- Climate preferences: Crocodiles live in hotter climates. Alligators live in "cooler" (at least by comparison) climates.
- Nest building techniques: Crocodiles dig holes to lay eggs. Alligators build mounds.
- Temperament differences: Crocodiles have watched humans grow up and understand humans can be food. Alligators don't normally eat people. Since they have been both isolated from humans for all but about 5 or 6 thousand years, they don't really understand we're on the menu, unless we teach them.
- Smiles on their faces: Crocodiles have a toothy grin when their mouths are closed. You see both top teeth and bottom teeth. Alligators have an overbite. All you see are the top teeth pointing downward.
- Last and probably least - their skulls and jaws: Crocodiles have narrow, somewhat pointed shaped skulls and jaws. Alligator jaws and skulls are more rounded at the snout.
You now officially know everything you never wanted to know about alligators. Aren't you glad?