Love is in the air, if you are an alligator. It’s alligator mating season.
Courtship begins in April and actual mating occurs in May or June.
Nearly all alligators become sexually mature by the time they reach approximately 7 feet in length, although females can reach maturity at 6 feet. A female may require 10-15 years and a male 8-12 years to reach these lengths, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
To attract females, males head-slap the water and produce a deep rumbling bellow. Once a male-female pair is formed, they will swim together, touch each other’s snouts and blow bubbles. Mating takes place in the water and when completed, the male disperses and the female is left to search for a place to build her nest.
Females build a mound nest of soil, vegetation or debris and deposit an average of 32 to 46 eggs in late June or early July. Incubation requires approximately 63-68 days, and hatching occurs from mid-August through early September.
After completing the nest, the female will deposit all of her eggs (ranging between 20 and 50) at once and cover them up with more vegetation for incubation. She may move vegetation around to keep the eggs at a fairly constant temperature. Females stay near the nest during incubation and actively defend it from predators like raccoons. Females may also be aggressive toward humans, often hissing and charging at intruders, so alligator nests should never be approached.
If you spot an alligator, send us a photo at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to stay at a safe distance!