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.
May 11, 2014
Mother's day.... At about 8am, I encountered an alligator in the
grass near the Spillway Trail. It had the carcass of a smaller
alligator in its jaws. I stayed near this alligator
all day to do interpretation and to be sure people stayed clear of it. For a long time, the alligator hardly moved at all. It moved up near the trail (where I could get a good idea of its size),
and only repositioned the carcass (by toss and catch) a few times. When one of our John Deere gators drove by, the alligator moved back towards the water (but not into it), and then
moved back up towards the trail. This alligator has a unique arrangement of osteoderms on its right side. Three of them form an "arc", open at the top. There is also a white lump that looks like a pebble
just above this arc; so the two conditions make this alligator easy to identify. Today's RICKUBISCAM image shows this arrangement. I've seen this alligator in the vicinity; and it might have chased a
female away from its den. I cannot find her, or her babies near the den where I'd seen them since last August. Then, it started chomping on the carcass, and doing the toss and catch movement to
reposition it. Another, smaller alligator came up from behind it, and slowly moved towards the carcass held in the bigger alligator's mouth. It's only a guess,but I believe that this motivated the larger
gator to start trying to swallow the carcass. I was surprised to see the alligator sling the carcass only once during the entire time (about 5 hours), before the gator began swallowing it.
A large group of people walked by on the trail about this time, and the smaller alligator was intimidated enough to retreat into the slough.
So the larger alligator started tossing and swallowing, and got in until only the base of the tail to the tip of the tail was showing. But, it couldn't continue, and slid backwards into the water and briefly ducked its head under. It might have done this to help lubricat the carcass. Then it moved back onto land, and spit about half of the carcass back out. Then, it began swallowing the carcass again, and I was amazed to see the ENTIRE carcass go down
the alligator's throat. The pictures are photos and frame captures from video clips I shot during this activity. There are two video clips, each one showing the first or second swallowing attempt. The links are here:
First attempt: wmv format 7.8mb mp4 format 7.6mb Second attempt: wmv format 7.9mb mp4 format 7.7mb
One week later (5/18/2014) I saw the same alligator cross the trail near the other end of the spillway bridge carrying a tremendous bulging stomach. Before it crossed, it lifted its hindquarters slightly. An alligator will sometimes do this just before it has to defecate. When I took a closer look at this alligator, I discovered that it wasn't poop extending from the cloaca. This is most likely a male alligator, though I don't know why it was...stretching. One image shows that odd arrangement of osteoderms, which identify it as the one eating the alligator on Mothers' Day. The next images show this alligator crossing the trail, ; and the last image is my "walking stick" lying directly on top of the tail drag mark. I tried to stage the shot from exactly the same position to compare the length of the alligator with my walking stick. The stick is 6 feet long (less 1/2 inch), and extends from the end of that exposed root, to the edge of the grass. The alligator extends past the stick on both ends and could possibly be about....9 or 10 feet long.
Examples I've captured of alligators eating other items start on my page here: http://www.rickubis.com/rick/gatr4.html
June 16, 2013 I
spent most of today watching over an Alligator that was eating the
carcass of another alligator. The alligators had been moving around a
lot over the last few weeks. I assumed that this was a 3 foot alligator
being eaten by an alligator about 9 feet long. For most of the day, the
alligator "rested", with the carcass in its jaws. However, it would
occasionally try to shake the carcass, and sometimes it would "chew" on
it. The time
between this kind of action could be from 20 minutes to an hour.
The alligator was in Pilant Lake, facing the trail. I thought it might possibly even cross the trail with the carcass; and enter 40 Acre lake. But it never did. I remained by the alligator, keeping park visitors from getting too close. Wildlife doesn't CARE that you want to take a picture of it with your celphone cameras with their lousy lens arrangements. Stay BACK from the wildlife--at a distance that does not bother it--and everything will be fine. Leave the park and its sights as you find them, so *other* visitors can enjoy the same things you did.
Shown here are some of the images I could get, as the alligator repositioned the carcass. Further examination of the carcass, I realized that the original alligator was larger than I'd originally thought. When the alligator repositioned the carcass; I noticed the cloaca. I saw that there was 10 to 12 inches of alligator in front of the cloacal opening, and the tail was intact behind it. It looked to be like half of an alligator carcass; which was about 3 feet long. The rear legs and feet were gone (they usually appear just in front of the cloaca). So...the original alligator was possibly 5 or 6 feet long. The carcass had no strong odor, although flies were starting to land on and near it. A close view of the jaws and teeth shows how they don't penetrate very far into a large mass. So, they can't cut very deeply.
As these few pictures show, the alligator tried to swallow the carcass by pulling it into its mouth by tossing and catching--then it would get it to the opening of its throat. Then; it would toss it back out, squeeze on it, and occasionally shake the carcass. The alligators throat has limited capacity--it can't stretch very far. The alligator's teeth are not good for tearing much; or for cutting. As I've shown on other pages, an alligator will chew to break bones and weaken connective tissues. If the prey is large enough to be stable while the alligator moves it; then it will try to twist-feed by clamping onto something and spinning a piece off. If the piece is small enough, it is swallowed. Otherwise, an alligator will work the parts, and if it can lift the carcass, it will shake it apart until it has pieces small enough to swallow. A complication is that other alligators recognise the violent movements, and will come an investigate--and then try to steal the prey. This is why an alligator will sometimes leave the water; or move into a smaller body of water--to avoid other alligators (on one of my pages); (or, as I've shown, other animals--like vultures). I have gathered many examples of alligators eating; and some of them appear one my web pages.
I shot one high-speed video clip of one "lift, throw, and snap" movement, a jaw clamp, and repositioning of the carcass, and an edited version is here. I have other examples of alligator prey handling on my other pages. This one shows another alligator using the "prey whipping" fragmentation on a smaller alligator. And my page here shows examples of two different mammals being fragmented.
I left this alligator sometime in the afternoon, when there was less human traffic. Throughout the day, park visitors mentioned another alligator eating an alligator carcass on the other side of the lake, but I never went to see it. Later, I realized that that carcass could have been the front half of this one--but I'll never know. There are various studies of alligator feeding mechanics on the internet. This one describes how strong an alligator's esophagus can be; and how it works. (Structure and function of the esophagus of the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) T. J. Uriona1,*, C. G. Farmer1, J. Dazely1, F. Clayton2 and J. Moore2) And this one describes "twist feeding" mechanics.(Death roll of the alligator: mechanics of twist feeding in water Frank E. Fish1,*, Sandra A. Bostic1, Anthony J. Nicastro2 and John T. Beneski1) Both of these studies were done using juvenile or immature alligators, and while they are detailed; they don't necessarily reflect what fully-grown alligators could do.
March 17, 2013 I
started walking around Elm Lake at about 8:30am. The temperature had
gone up, and I expected to hear bellowing from some of the large
alligators that I knew were there. Alligator mating season starts in
March. I was disappointed. Not only was there no bellowing, but I only
saw 3 alligators as I moved West on the South side of the lake. I was
near pier 6, and I was looking at some visitors on it, when movement in
the lake made me turn.
I just caught a glimpse of an alligator giving something in its mouth one last shake before lowering its head. I thought the carcass was dark, so I just assumed it was a Nutria. When the visitors got closer, I pointed out the alligator described its condition, and we waited for the alligator to try chewing again. I know that we could possibly wait for 15 to 30 minutes for this. And we did wait. And nothing happened, so the visitor and family moved on. I waited, because I wanted to see what the alligator had in its mouth. The alligator moved to the far side of the island (which was mostly submerged), but I thought it would be moving towards the part of the island that was above water so it could eat. Eventually it did move towards the high ground. I waited for an hour before the alligator lifted its head high (at about 11am), only to rest again. I took pictures anyway, even though the alligator was on one of the islands. I still couldn't tell what the carcass was. The island was about 50 yards or more away, and even with binoculars, I couldn't tell what the alligator had. I estimate the length of the alligators to be 8 - 9 feet.
At 11:19. the alligator *did* shake the carcass but only once, and I shot some photos and hoped for the best. I waited for another hour, and noticed another alligator moving towards the first one. It crept closer and closer,
moving towards the carcass that was hidden behind the alligator's head. The alligator suddenly twisted the carcass away from the interloper, then moved into the water. A short chase began and ended, and the alligator moved
over the island with the carcass. I left.
On Tuesday I heard about some visitors that saw an alligator eating another on Monday from a couple different sources. I finally got a chance to review my photos and video clips. It turns out that what I'd been calling a Nutria was actually an Alligator carcass. It's possible this was the same alligator that was witnessed being eaten on Monday. Below are some of images cropped from the pictures I shot.
And the next 3 images are screen grab sequence from this short video clip which shows the alligator trying to steal the carcass, and the short chase. As it shows, the alligator with the carcass moved away from me. I have a lot of other information about alligators on my pages featuring them. The first one is here. Alligators don't like to share, and don't cooperate. But, when one has a carcass and is working on it, the movement and the smell can draw the attention of other alligators in the area. As in this clip, the "thief" alligator usually approaches cautiously, and doesn't attack the alligator that has the food. Instead, it goes for the food. The reluctant "host" alligator usually tries evasion or bluffing (thrashing, hissing) instead of a direct counterattack.
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.
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 INTERACTION||CONFLICT AND CANNIBALISM||FEEDING||BABY ALLIGATORS||ALLIGATOR DENS||ALLIGATORS ON LAND||FOSSIL CROCS|
|SIGNALS 1||CONFLICT 1||FEEDING 1||BABIES 1||DENS 1||ON LAND 1||FOSSILS 1|
|SIGNALS 2||CONFLICT 2||FEEDING 2||BABIES 2||ON LAND 2|
|SIGNALS 3||CONFLICT 3||FEEDING 3||BABIES 3||ON LAND 3|
|SIGNALS 4||FEEDING 4||BABIES 4||ON LAND 4|
|SIGNALS 5||FEEDING 5||BABIES 5||ON LAND 5|
|SIGNALS 6||FEEDING 6||BABIES 6||ON LAND 6|
|SIGNALS 7||ON LAND 7|
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
Go back to the See the World page.