ALLIGATOR BEHAVIOR page 3:  CONFLICT AND CANNIBALISM Page 1
This page was born 12/27/2003.  Rickubis designed it.  (such as it is.) Last update  07/14/2015
Images and contents on this page copyright © 2001-2015  Richard M. Dashnau

Alligators usually follow a series of non-violent behaviors when interacting with each other. But they are animals, not machines, just like we are. People, which are supposed to be "civilized", may react savagely if provoked in the right way. The same can be said for any of our domestic animals. Occasionally, even alligators will react violently towards each other. It is foolish to provoke any wild animal, regardless of size or disposition. The animals have a right to live in their habitat, and humans can share it with them if they take the time to understand the animals.

July 18, 2004 The image below (IT ALL COMES AROUND) shows something I find sad and disturbing. It's a dead alligator, about 9 feet long, that's been dead for some time. 

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                                                                 IT ALL COMES AROUND  

On Sunday morning, I went out to look for it, and found it along the Spillway Trail, near a concrete culvert. As disturbing as this dead alligator looks (It's a bit distressing that an alligator this large is dead.), the sight is NOTHING compared to the smell. The carcass was right next to the culvert (see BLOATED FLOATER, below). I was surprised and a little disappointed that there were no alligators feeding on the carcass, but I took a few pictures anyway. As I was walking away, I turned and looked back at the dead alligator one more time, and I saw it move...almost like it was drifting with a current. But, there was no current!  When I went back and looked down, I saw this ten-foot alligator (see NOT QUITE DRIFTING, below) holding onto the tail. The water in this part of the Pilant Slough is often tinted dark by leaves. The live alligator was resting underwater, and its dark color was invisible in the dark, shaded water. As I watched, it submerged again (see MY FLOATING DINNER, below). The last image (LIVE ANCHOR, below) is a closer, cropped version of the same image. The alligator finally submerged totally, and I watched the carcass get towed away. I had this mental image of the alligator towing this meal like a kid with a balloon. At this time, it began to rain, and I also had to give a program in the VC/NC, so I left the area. 

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               REALLY BLOATED FLOATER                                              NOT QUITE DRIFTING                                             MY FLOATING DINNER                                          LIVE ANCHOR CLOSER
Later, after my program, one of the park visitors mentioned the dead alligator, and said that another one was actively feeding upon it. So, I went back to take a look. Today's RICKUBISCAM shows the large alligator swimming towards this gruesome piñata (when this thing bursts, LOOK OUT!). I didn't have my video camera with me (sometimes it's just too much gear to load and unload from the car, etc.), but I was able to get a few video clips with my Olympus C750.  The images below are single frames from three sections of a single video clip. Part 1--PULL AND BITE, below, shows the alligator pulling the carcass (it was about 25 yards away), and then grabbing with its mouth and preparing to spin. Part 2--SPIN OFF A PIECE, below, shows the alligator going into its spin. This is amazing! I've never seen one do it before, and I can't believe how fast the alligator spins, and for how long! I didn't break this clip further because I didn't want to break the spin. Part 3--SWALLOW THE PIECE, below,  shows the alligator lifting its head so it can swallow what it has torn off. Or, click this link to se the entire clip in one piece:  FULL VIDEO CLIP 2319 kb  I really hope we don't see any more dead alligators. 

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                           PULL AND BITE                                                           SPIN OFF A PIECE!                                         SWALLOW THE PIECE
                     VIDEO PART 1 567 kb                                                     VIDEO PART 2 1117 kb                                      VIDEO PART 3 802 kb

July 12, 2004 One other event worthy of note: During the week, a number of park visitors reported seeing large dead alligators  (at least 6 feet long) being eaten by even larger alligators. Park Naturalist David Heinicke was able to witness a part of this, and was even able to take pictures (see DEAD GATOR, below). Unfortunately, I was unable to get to the park soon enough to see any of this myself. It is thought that there may have been 2 or 3 alligators actually killed (not the 4 or 5 first thought), and that as they were eaten, their carcasses were moved about the park. Some bad news was that one dead alligator was a female that apparently left a nest with live eggs. The eggs were taken and will be incubated and hopefully hatched in captivity.
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                                                                                           DEAD GATOR

March 29, 2004  The image below (ALLIGATOR WRESTLING) shows that one should never consider wrestling an alligator...even if one IS an alligator.  March 29 was a Monday, and I'd taken a day off to go to the park to see if I could find any alligator mating behavior to film. I didn't see any, but I did see *this*.  For now, I'll just post this list of events as I saw them, with the clip numbers  referenced in parenthesis.  Not ALL the clips are here.

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                                                ALLIGATOR WRESTLING!
The feeding alligator is about 7 feet long and the small alligator is about 3 feet long.
My video record started at about 10:43am(clip680). As time progressed, I had to start and stop the video recording. This was advisable because the alligator spent long periods of time not moving(perhaps resting). When the larger alligator began to move, I'd resume filming. This worked out well, since I only had 20 minutes of video tape.
Unfortunately, I missed the beginning of the situation, so I don't know how or why the smaller alligator was in this predicament. The large gaps of time represent periods that the alligator remained still.

10:46-10:47 Large alligator continues chewing on the neck and upper body of smaller alligator. Smaller alligator shows movement--possibly reflexive-- rear-leg stepping and slow tail sweeping.(clip681)

11:03-11:04  Large alligator had moved back into the water, and comes back out at this time. It crawls almost entirely onto mudbank, chewing on and dragging small alligator which it still is holding by the "shoulder" area.(clip682 not here)

11:17 Large alligator still chews on shoulder area.(clip683 not here)

11:34 Alligator chews, then lifts upper body and does first "whip" of smaller alligator. One time only. Rain clouds moved into area at this time, so darkness falls.(clip684)
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                    VIDEO CLIP  640KB                                              VIDEO CLIP  837KB                                               VIDEO CLIP  611KB                   
                      clip 680                                              clip 681                                                    clip 684                        

11:43 Alligator has backed into the water, at the same time alligators have started bellowing nearby (within 50 yards) in Elm Lake, and also further away. It moves back onto mudbank, still chewing shoulder area.  11:46 Alligator begins chewing, and does second "whip". Carcass makes loud slap sound on mud bank.(clip685 not here)

11:52  Alligator does 3rd whip.(clip686 not here)

11:58 4th whip.  5th whip. No. 5 makes pop sound against mud. Continues movement this time, takes a step backwards (into water), then whip number 6. Number 6 makes LOUD pop noise against water.(clip687 split into two parts here)
NEW CLIP ADDED 04/12/04: "Whip Number 6" is shown in slow motion (link is below). Seen this way, the movement is much more graceful. The "whip" can be broken down into separate parts. 1) First, he raises his upper body with his forelegs. This lifts the prey off the ground and clears his body for rapid movement. 2) He pushes forward with his rear legs, while cocking his head to the *left* side. 3) His upper body moves up, forward,  and then falls to the *right* side, which gives it momentum. 4) As the body nears the ground (the right foreleg touches the ground), the alligator begins whipping his upper body and head in the direction his body is falling--transferring the stored energy through the rotation point of his neck towards the end of his snout. 5) The alligator's body lays onto the ground, while the snout continues whipping towards, and then past, his body midline( still moving towards the right).  The energy set in motion by the large mass of the alligator's body is now transferred to the alligator's head, which is still moving in the direction started by the fall.  6) the energy is now transferred to the carcass, as the alligator jerks its head back in the other direction (back towards the left), so that stress is transferred to any leverage points that are held in the alligator's jaws.This jerk to the left is assisted by his entire body pulling and curving to the left.  This jerk is either strong enough to move his body to the right, or he's taking a slight step in that direction. With the continued "chewing" on the connective tissues to weaken them, this whip-cracking should eventually cause the carcass to tear into smaller pieces.
 At least, that's how *I* see it. This is not unlike the physics used in some martial arts movements, and I think it's pretty cool.

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                         VIDEO CLIP  470KB                                                             VIDEO CLIP  410KB                                
                         clip 687b                                                            clip 687c

12:02 7th whip. This whip is also loud pop against water. 12:03 8th whip. Alligator steps forward and carcass hits ground, not loudly. (clip688 not here)

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                 VIDEO CLIP  wmv 1.7mb                                              VIDEO CLIP  894KB                                              VIDEO CLIP  894KB              
             clip 687b slow motion                                         clip 690b                                                clip 691b                     

12:09 9th whip. Alligator steps back. 10th whip. Whip number 10 is LOUD against water. Alligator still chewing head/shoulder area.(clip689 not here)

12:11 Around 12:09-12:10 Large alligator appeared directly behind us on shoreline of Elm Lake. We moved people and tripods at my request. 12:11, Large alligator walks mostly onto bank and rests. 12:14 Large Alligator crosses trail and moves into puddle.  (clip690)

12:18 Moved tripod back to original position. Large alligator moves upon feeding alligator from behind. It is perhaps 50 percent larger than feeding alligator. Feeding alligator runds and evades, submerging. Large alligator moves towards us, faces us, shows tail arch. (clip691 split into two parts here)

12:19 Feeding alligator reappears, and swims off--still holding smaller alligator in its mouth. 12:22 Large alligator pursues, until feeding alligator is forced into very shallow water, where it moves and hides in grass. Large alligator stops where water still covers at least half of body (about 20 feet back from hiding alligator). Body straigh, minor tail arch, with last 3rd of tail swishing slowly back and forth. Large alligator eventually broke off, and moved back into pond.(clip692)

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                              VIDEO CLIP  975KB                                      VIDEO CLIP   1169KB
                            clip 691c                                                clip 692c

I'm very happy I got to see all of this. I don't know what started the conflict in the first place, although alligators normally move into that large puddle (or small pond) to feed for a while before moving back into a deeper body of water.  Since I was constantly pausing and filming with the camcorder, I couldn't get any pictures with my still camera. I think that the slapping noises are what called the larger alligator. The "headslap" has a very similar sound. There was another large alligator *behind* the one that crossed, but it remained in Elm Lake, about 10 feet from shore, and eventually swam off after the trail crossing.  This also illustrates the difficulty that an alligator has separating prey into pieces that it can swallow. It was also interesting that the alligator held on to its prize (the smaller gator) even while being chased.

The date was September 4, 1992. Donna was at Brazos Bend park, when she was alerted to living proof of something that many visitors to the park find unbelievable. That was the sight of a large alligator (Donna estimated it at about 10 feet long) that was eating a smaller alligator (about 4 feet long). No one had witnessed the events leading to this ending, so any reasons for the attack are strictly conjectural. Closeups in the videotape show that many flies had already made an appearance, so the kill had probably been made some time before. When alligators make a kill that is too large to swallow whole, they will carry the carcass around, sometimes for days, until it has softened enough to break up and swallow. Click the link below for a small clip showing this.

Alligator eating another  14,593 kb (no sound) 

Note how much difficulty the large alligator is having with the dead one. They are not "built" for attacking large prey items. Their teeth are poorly-configured for tearing flesh. Also, an alligator has very tough skin, and would be difficult for almost anything to dismember. There is a good possibility that this was the result of a territorial dispute gone bad.

The next day, September 5, 1992, Donna was once again at the right place at the right time with a video camera. This time, in Elm Lake at the park, the fish were dying off, evidently due to an algae bloom that had depleted the oxygen in the water. The fish were congregating near the surface of the lake.  Lining up for this free food were a huge number of alligators of all sizes.  Among the alligators in the park about this time were apparent strangers to the park. These "visitors" seemed to be darker than most of the other alligators, and also were apparently more aggressive. During the course of this video, one alligator can be seen chasing other alligators, away from this stretch of shoreline.  In the clip below, one of the territorial conflicts takes place. Immediately after this clip, the alligators both moved out towards deeper water, where they tussled again. There is a large "clump" sound from within the disturbance, and only one alligator immediately surfaced. Click the link below, next to the image to see the first part of this battle. These alligators are at least 10 feet long.

Alligator territorial conflict  2,959 kb (no sound) 

The picture above is one of a series of 32 images. Click on this link to see them. Alligator Territorial Dispute Sequence

As far as I could see from the video, there was none of the usual evaluation of social status for either alligator. The one just attacked the other. From what I've heard from witnesses there at the time, it seemed to be a very large alligator that was attacking the others. It probably came to the park from somewhere else (so wasn't born there) and viewed everything else close to its size (including humans) as interlopers in its adopted territory. It eventually had to be destroyed because of this behavior.
This is very unusual behavior for an alligator. Remember, almost every one who is reading this is certainly living within 50 yards of a large predator that attacks humans by the thousands every year. At least two people were killed by this predator in my home town over the last year. That predator is the domestic dog. Our friend and companion (I can't live without one), it can still attack if provoked in the wrong way, and most attacks could be prevented by better understanding of dog behavior. However, such attacks are not usual dog behavior. Neither is this aggression shown here normal among alligators. Note that of all the alligators swimming around, only one was aggressive.

A little later on, Donna (who was standing quite close to the shore during all this), noticed the alligator below in territorial/aggressive posture. While she was filming, she assumed at first that this rather unwelcome attention was focused on another alligator in the water near her. However, not much later, it
seems fairly obvious that Donna herself was the creature that was annoying the alligator. Fortunately, although this alligator made a few passes near shore, and actually paused in front of Donna a few times,  it never left the water and attempted to do anything else. Click on the link near the picture to see the
clip.

Alligator aggressive posture 7,165 kb (no sound) 

The picture above is one of a series of 37 images. Click on this link to see them.Alligator Aggression Display Sequence

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.

           Go back to my main alligator page, Alligators

           Go back to my home page, Welcome to rickubis.com
           Go back to the See the World page.