ALLIGATOR BEHAVIOR page 2e:  SOCIAL SIGNALS AND BELLOWING 5
This page was born 07/04/2008.  Rickubis designed it.  (such as it is.) Last update: 11/26/2012
Images and contents on this page copyright 2001 - 2012  Richard M. Dashnau

Alligators, although they are ectothermic and also equipped with a small brain, exhibit a surprising diversity in their responses to their environment and to each other. They are for more complex than mere animated logs or 12-foot-long eating machines. This group of pages show some of what I've been able to see in just two years (starting September of 2001) at Brazos Bend State Park.

12/17/2006---It's gotten close to 80 degrees over the last few days. This morning, as I was walking down the Spillway Trail (I was hoping to see an otter again), I heard alligator bellowing in the direction of Elm Lake. I walked over there, and sure enough, alligators were bellowing. LOTS of alligators were bellowing, all over the lake!  I moved towards New Horseshoe Lake, looking towards the noises I heard. Unfortunately most of the alligators were near the center of the lake, and on the other side of the islands. So, I didn't see many of them. The image below left (WINTER BELLOW) shows one of them I did see, out near one of the islands. While I stood and listened, the alligators would bellow into a large chorus; then only a few would bellow off in the distance. Then, more would join in again. The alligators continued bellowing for a little over an hour. It was terrific!  Later I heard that alligators had been bellowing in 40 Acre, and Pilant, Lakes.  When I'd walked by them earlier, it was still foggy, and I saw only one alligator.
Usually, we don't hear bellowing like this unless it's mating season. The unseasonably warm weather probably had something to do with it. Something like this happened last year, also. At that time, one of the Park Naturalists suggested that the alligators-energized by the warmth-were possibly claiming their den areas where they'd be spending the winter. I haven't been able to verify this.

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                                                  -----WINTER BELLOW---------------  --------COOL GATOR CLOSER
12/03/2006--We've had a cold front or two move through our area. The temperature has dropped to around 30 degrees for some evenings. Sunday morning, December 3rd, was pretty chilly. The sky was clear, with bright sunlight--but the air was cold. The water was also cold (but not frozen). Even so, I was able to see two alligators in 40 Acre Lake as I was heading back to the Visitor/Nature Center. The image above right (COOL GATOR) shows one that was close to the shore, but not close to coming out to bask.  Look how clear the water is! The image below is a closer view of the same alligator.
I passed this one, and saw another alligator further out. That one slowly submerged and sank. I saw it standing on the bottom as I passed. With the deep water so clear, this was a good illustration of how the alligators deal with a cold front coming through.  Alligators can hold their breath for somewhere around 1 to 6 hours (depending on what you read). When a cold front comes through, the air is the coldest environment. Therefore, air, and the surfaces contacting the air are the most frigid. This means that areas that are not exposed to the air will be at least a bit warmer--depending on how long this cold spell lasts. The bottom of the lakes will be less frigid than the surface. Alligators will seek out deeper water, or dens they've dug, or even dig into mud to get away from the cold air.
These alligators were avoiding the worst cold while lying on the bottom.  After long invervals of rest, they can come to the surface for air, and they can also test the temperature by exposing their head. An alligator could also find the amount of radiant heat available on the exposed surfaces of its head when the sun shines on it.

March 25, 2007-- I watched an alligator (about 6  feet long) as it moved near the bank at 40 Acre Lake. It looked like it was going to bellow, it even opened its mouth, but then stopped posturing and started leisurely hunting. It was going after schools of very small fish that were appearing at the surface. Meanwhile, a larger alligator began hunting nearby, and it eventually moved towards the smaller alligator. Finally, the smaller gator submerged, probably to hunt a school of fish which the larger alligator also noticed. While the smaller was submerged, the larger swam at the surface, and then went for the school (see FISH! GULP!, below left). There was a slight disturbance, and then the smaller gator slowly retreated.
It eventually walked ashore (see I'M GETTIN' OUTTA HERE, below), and laid down to bask. Soon after, the larger alligator also walked onto the bank (see SAVE ME A SPOT, below).  This was very close to the Observation Tower.
Somewhere off in Pilant Slough, an alligator started bellowing.  The larger alligator returned to the water, moved closer to the tower, and then began to bellow. (see WATERDANCE STAGES, below). I was about 12 feet away. The battery on my video camera was dead, so no video while I shot the photos.

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-------                 --FISH! GULP!- ------                                    ----  I'M GETTIN' OUTTA HERE---                               -------SAVE ME A SPOT 

      
                      WATERDANCE STAGE 1-                                        ---WATERDANCE STAGE 2--                               ------WATERDANCE STAGE 3

08/19/2007---Interesting sightings...
I hadn't been at BBSP long. I walked downhill to 40-Acre lake (like I've been doing lately), and then stopped to look at the alligator nest on the first
island. We had some alligator eggs from another nest in the Visitor's center, and they hatched last Friday.
So, I was looking for evidence that the island nest had hatched. Even with my "bare eyes" I could see alligator egg shells scattered on the island. I looked through
binoculars, but couldn't see baby alligators, although I thought I could see the mother's head in the water. (see OPENED NEST, and OPENED EGGS, below left)

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                --OPENED ALLIGATOR NEST                                             OPENED EGGS ON ISLAND                            GATOR WITH DEAD GATOR            

    
                         HE'S NOTICED ME                                              HEAD LIFT BEFORE GROWL

Then I turned, and right behind me, on the other side of the trail, I saw the rotted carcass of an alligator--in the jaws of a live alligator. The live one was about 10 feet long, the dead one was only a partial carcass, so I couldn't guess how big it was. This was in Pilant lake. I walked past, and tried to get some pictures. As I did, the alligator reared up a bit, and then did a short growl/bellow. Too bad I wasn't videotaping, but I did get a couple photos. (see DEAD GATOR, NOTICE ME, HEAD LIFT above) This was interesting, because this is just the second time I'd seen an alligator growl near the volume and length of a bellow...as a warning. Just a week before, I saw it myself for the first time, when an alligator on the trail made the same sound when some people passed by. That noise certainly gets your attention, and if you hear it, it's certainly a good idea to back off.
The female by the island started bellowing in answer to the male. Then the male in front of me spat out his carcass, and he started bellowing. I videotaped some of that.  The female bellowed a few more times, but I kept watch on the male...since it was right next to me--you know, within walking distance.  I heard other alligators bellowing further away at the same time.
The big male stopped bellowing, and I tried to swing the camera around to catch the female bellowing.  Unfortunately, she stopped as I was focusing on her.
Then things quieted down. (see WITH CARCASS, BELLOWS ON ISLAND, below)

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                BELLOW WITH CARCASS                                         FEMALE BELLOWS ON ISLAND                                   BELLOWING FEMALE CLOSER     
  BELLOW VIDEO wmv 2.6mb           FEMALE ENDS BELLOW wmv 5.6mb     

  
                      NEST WITH BABIES                                                  THE BABIES
 
BABIES ON THE ISLAND wmv 5.6mb
 

Then, in the afternoon, as I was returning, I checked on the nest again, and this time I could see the babies through binoculars, but there were too many-and
they weren't clear enough-for me to count. 15--20? I tried to shoot photos and a little video (see NEST WITH BABIES, above). In the video clip, the mother alligator is near the base of the tree to the right of the image frame.

If you'd like to know more about the park follow these links:

Brazos Bend State Park   The main page.

Brazos Bend State Park Volunteer's Page  The volunteer's main page.

Here are a few links to more information on alligators. There's a LOT of it out there.

    Crocodilian.com

    Adam Britton's Pages 1

    Adam Britton's Pages 2

    Fish and Wildlife Page (Text)

    Fish and Wildlife Endangered Species


 Here are my "alligator behavior" pages:

SOCIAL INTERACTIONCONFLICT AND CANNIBALISMFEEDINGBABY ALLIGATORSALLIGATOR DENSALLIGATORS ON LANDFOSSIL CROCS
SIGNALS 1CONFLICT 1FEEDING 1BABIES 1DENS 1ON LAND 1FOSSILS 1
SIGNALS 2CONFLICT 2FEEDING 2BABIES 2ON LAND 2
SIGNALS 3CONFLICT 3FEEDING 3BABIES 3ON LAND 3
SIGNALS 4FEEDING 4BABIES 4ON LAND 4
SIGNALS 5FEEDING 5BABIES 5ON LAND 5
SIGNALS 6FEEDING 6BABIES 6ON LAND 6
SIGNALS 7
ON LAND 7
SIGNALS 8

And, this page shows alligators at the park, on land, near various landmarks at the park.

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