This page was born 11/29/2012.  Rickubis designed it.   Last update: 12\19\2017
Images and contents on this page copyright 2004 -2017 Richard M. Dashnau

02/19/2017  Set up the spotting scope by the mom and babies again today, from 8:30 am to 2:30 pm. I talked to 200 park visitors during that time, shared the view of the mom and babies through
the scope, and shared information with them. Today, an American Bittern foraged in the area during the entire time. Bitterns are interesting anyway (see them on my page here), but one has been
observed taking a baby alligator at the park in 2015. So, I could show this example of one of the many predators which eat baby alligators.  This one stayed away from the babies, and captured a number of crawfish.  
This one stayed away from the babies, and captured a number of crawfish.  And, below, another picture of the babies, this time on the mother's snout.

Here's some further information that can be shared while looking at this mom and babies. The pictures below are pictures from
February 12, of the same mother and babies.
As volunteers at BBSP, we are told that male alligators can be about 14 feet long, while female alligators rarely get longer than 9 feet. The "alligator fact sheet" found
on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website :  ""
states "females seldom reach over 9 feet in length, while males may reach 14 feet These figures can also be found in many other places, in print or online.
I have also seen speculation that alligators continue growing throughout their lifetimes.  This is not true. The growth curves for male and female alligators do flatten out, starting
at about 40 years. For many years I've wondered *why* the difference in length between male and female alligators? After all, they live in the same environment; and have access to the same
There's a hint In this study: Growth Rate of American Alligators in Estuarine and Palustrine Wetland in Louisiana William L. Rootes, Robert H. Chabreck  (1991), they state:
"In our study, male alligators grew faster than females after they reached 1 meter Total Length; therefore, males became considerably larger than females. (P.491) " and
"The slower growth rate of adult female alligators as compared to adult males may be related to the greater energy expenditure by females during reproduction. (P.492)"
In another study (referred to me by Ph.D. Candidate, Biologist Abby Lawson): Determinate Growth and Reproductive Lifespan in the American Alligator
(Alligator mississippiensis): Evidence from Long-term Recaptures by Philip M. Wilkinson, Thomas R. Rainwater, Allan R. Woodward, Erin H. Leone,
and Cameron Carter  (published 2016) they gathered data over 40 years.
The greatest lengths were:  females:  213.4 to 293.6 cm  (7 - 9.6 ft) ; males: 325.1 to 380.4 cm    ( 10.6 - 12.4 ft) This study was done in  SC (South Carolina) and alligators grow slower
there than here in Texas.  But length of mature specimens was the same. It just takes longer to get there. This study also gives female reproductive efforts as a cause for the size difference
between male and female alligators. When stated in more detail, this makes sense. I got most of the following information from pages 849-850 of the study.
The growth of female crocodilians slows and finally stops when they reach the size which balances with the energy they expend. Males expend less energy during the reproductive process
than females do.  
Both sexes expend energy during courtship, competing for mates, and copulation. But after all that, female alligators construct the nest, produce the eggs, guard the nest, help with hatching and guard the young.
Both sexes grow quickly until they are big enough to prevent most predation upon them. Then, females' energy shifts toward reproduction. Even so, larger females would be able to take better nesting sites, so
some further growth would be useful to them. but they still stop growing at about 9 feet.  Male alligators grow quickly when they're young, but continue growing after maturity. This allows males to quickly
get big enough to compete with other males for territories and habitats.
uarding the nest requires 60 days, (and my guess is it's) during the season when prey and alligators are most active. Previous and newly-hatched young will be protected for a year or more.  So, that is why
a full-grown male alligator is about half again as large as a full-grown female.  

02/05/2017  I've been volunteering at Brazos Bend State Park for a little over 15 years.  Often, while I'm out there, I do what is called "trail interpretation". There are different ways that this can play out.
This time, I brought a spotting scope with me, and brought it near one of the alligators that had a pod of babies. Visitors who walked by would have seen and heard something like this:

  "Hi!! Can you see what I've been watching over there?"  

  "Yes! There's an alligator out there, about 20 yards away. But...can you see the other 15?"    

"That's a female alligator,and her babies are around her. In fact, some are on her back. I have the scope focused on her."  
"You're welcome to take a look through the scope. That's why I've set it up. I've set it low so that children can look through it, too."

  "Can you see the babies?. That "rock" they're on is, in fact, her back. At that size, they would have hatched last September."(Pic shot with my phone through the scope.)  

  I have spent many hours doing this, and on February 5, 2017 I spent more hours doing the same thing. Using the opening described, I could go to all sorts of information about
alligator behavior and biology...and even other subjects about the life in the park.  It's a wonderful way to spend time. Here is a larger picture of the mom and babies
that I took on this day. It's from a number of zoomed images that I was able to stitch together. There are at least 9 babies on her. 

I enjoy being near and observing alligators,and I enjoy interpreting alligators for park visitors. I consider the hundreds of hours I've spent doing these things as special--but
every now and then something happens that is outstanding, like on this day:
The mother alligator and babies has been a popular sight on the Creekfield Trail for many months. I enjoy spending hours near them, and interpreting for park visitors there.
On March 20, 2016 I was near the mother alligator and babies at the bridge on Creekfield Lake. I was trying to get pictures of the babies as they hunted on or near their
mother. One baby seemed to be foraging inside the mother's mouth, until she
briefly clamped her teeth.

I was interpreting for some visitors when I became aware of the sounds of disturbed birdsbehind me. I turned around and saw Whistling Ducks and other birds flocking and making short, panicked flights
in the center of the lake. Then I looked a bit higher...and saw a Bald Eagle above them!

It circled and attempted to dive at the ducks. I shouted to the group around me and pointed out the Eagle as it circled and tried again. I brought my camera up and tried to track the eagle
and shoot pictures. I'd been focused on the gator babies, and couldn't change settings on the camera without losing the I shot what I could. It moved too quickly to
easily focus, and all the while I kept repeating "LOOK! Look at the EAGLE!!"-and describing the action to the crowd of visitors. Waterfowl in the area were flying around, and a crow harassed the
eagle. The pictures above are frame grabs from the short video I got. That video can be seen here.The eagle flew to one of the large trees on the West side of the lake...where black vultures were
perched. The vultures all took off, and then the air around us was filled with ducks, coots,at least one crow, and vultures. There was the panicky flapping and calling of the various waterfowl all around;
while the vultures quietly flew in multiple paths above them,showing their discomfiture in a self-possessed manner. It was an amazing sight! I called the eagle a"T. Rex in the sky, on the hunt."
The sky eventually cleared, and the Eagle took off from the tree,but it flew North, and didn't go over the lake again. While talking to the visitors, I guessed that the eagle we saw might have been
an inexperienced juvenile, possiblyfrom the nest at Oyster Creek. Although it was chilly and windy, it turned out to be an outstanding day!

The following weekend, I spent a few more hours with the mother alligator and babies. While I was there, quite a few park visitors tried to count the babies. I tried, too. Counting baby alligators can be difficult because
the babies are well-camouflaged, often pile together, and are often moving around.  Still, I counted at least 25, and there were some counts near 30. The first picture below shows the larger group of babies near the mother's tail.
The pictures after are views of the same "pile" from alongside.

To show how the babies blend in with each other, here are two larger pictures. I've numbered the alligators in the picture to show where they are (there are 22). Click on the images to see them larger.

Besides this large group, there were other babies visible scattered near the mother's head-one group of 4 or 5, and another group of 5 or 6.
This was the first weekend of Daylight Saving time, so the time had moved forward one hour. The mother 'gator left the babies this weekend, too, at about 4:30 (which would have been 3:30 last week). This is the third time I've seen this. Today, however, the mother made a very low grunt sound, a few different times,over a half-hour. The babies started to disperse, and appeared to be moving into cover (they moved into the tall grasses) as the mother swam off. Before she swam away, she remained in the water without moving for about 15 minutes. A few of the babies climbed over her towards the hiding place, and one of them was trying to catch something in the water near her tail. Notice that during all the hours (over the days I was near her)the mother alligator didn't react to all of the people passing by, or looking, or taking pictures. There was a orange net barrier set up to keep her off the trail, and people away from her and the babies. When she swam off, she did so slowly and quietly.  She showed no stress at all. The last two pictures below show her swimming towards the bridge, and then moving under it-as two young park visitors watched her go.  It's amazing how quickly time passes by while I'm watching a mother alligator and her babies.

  The park flooded for some weeks last spring, from end of April through the first week of July. This disrupted the alligators' nesting, since it usually happens in June. In fact, only 9 nests were counted--and these were near
Elm Lake (7 nests) and between the two Horseshoe lakes (2 nests).   
Sometime in September, a female alligator appeared on the Creekfield Lake trail, with more than 20 new babies. I didn't go near them before the winter, so hadn't seem them very much. I happened to be on the Creekfield Lake trail a few times
during this relatively warm winter weather, and had a chance to see the baby alligators and their mother.  I spent about 4 hours near them on February 21, but didn't take many pictures (since they pod was mostly hidden by plants). But...
at about 2:30 pm, the mother alligator slowly moved away from the babies. Then she  went under the trail by passing under the footbridge and swam off into the lake--which left her babies alone and unprotected. I was a bit surprised since
she was over 30 yards away and still swimming when I left.
Then, on March 6th, I spent a few more hours with the mom and babies. This time, I got some images, which I show here. Some of the babies took turns getting on her back, while others basked on the bank, and some others hunted. The only
prey that I could see was small minnows (I couldn't see anything else moving...but it's still winter). So, I assume that's what the baby alligators were catching. The mother alligator didn't move much during the hours I was there--as the babies
climbed on and off of her.  


Then, at about 2 PM, she started to move. And, once again, she slowly swam along parallel to the trail, as the babies slid off her back one-by-one. By the time she reached the bridge, the babies were all off, and
the mother 'gator swam under the bridge and further into the lake. Once again, the babies were left alone and unprotected. I thought it interesting that she had done this at nearly the same time on two different weekends.


Not Snakes and Ladders-Snakes and 'Gators!! On this Sunday, I spent a few hours by the mother alligator and her babies.


09/28/2014 Just one of many pictures of the mother alligator and her babies at the spillway trail nest. Just one cropped image as a reminder that I need to post more of them.


November 4, 2012 Sometime around 12:30, David told me that Greg and Joann had come by the VC. They mentioned that the female alligator with babies at 40 Acre lake that we've been watching had appeared, and the babies were crawling on top of her. EVERYONE likes to see this, and get pictures of baby alligators on top of their mother. But I had to set up for my program, and wouldn't have time to go out to see them and get back. So I didn't go.  
I was doing my Hard To Be an Alligator program when my cellphone chimed with a text message at about 2:07PM.  Later I saw David, and found out he'd sent the message. The female alligator with babies at 40 Acre lake had crossed the trail.
David explained that when he passed by them on the way to the Observation Tower the mother and babies were in 40 Acre lake, but when he came back the other way, they had the crossed the trail into Pilant Lake. A handful (about 6 babies) were in Pilant  Lake with her. David said the mother alligator had been a bit agitated, and was circling around.  This is probably the same alligator that I talked about lower down on this page (August 19, 2012).
I decided to go out and look. When I got there, about 3:30, I could see a number of people standing on both sides of the trail taking pictures something in the water. As I walked up quickly, the groups broke up and moved away. I could see that they had been taking pictures of the baby alligators in Pilant lake  and their mother (which was near the wild rice); and also the group of baby alligators in 40 Acre lake. When the people moved off, I moved about 10 paces west of both groups of alligators. This put me out of a direct path between the groups, and far enough away (I hoped) so the baby alligators wouldn't pay attention to me; and the sun was behind me so I wouldn't be looking into it. Then I waited.
After some time, I noticed stirring in the plants at the water's edge of 40 Acre Lake, and I knew at least one baby alligator was coming ashore. But a few people came by, and the movement stopped. David appeared on his bike, and after some talk, he moved East (towards the tower) about 10 paces on the other side of the alligators, while I stayed where I was. Time passed, and we tried to keep people from standing near the two groups of babies. We both explained what we were waiting for (baby alligators crossing the trail) but nothing happened. David eventually rode off West (and headed off an oncoming John Deere gator on the way).  I stayed and waited. There was more quiet time without any passing visitors. During that time, the mother alligator moved into the rice; then stayed quiet for a while. Then she'd come out, move around, and go back into the rice. When she moved, the babies that were scattered around her in the water would chirp.
Finally, at about 4:18, I was rewarded with more movement in the grass. One tiny alligator appeared near 40 Acre Lake. Then another. Diane, one of our previous Volunteers, happened by at about that time. We watched as the first few babies moved through the grass and climbed closer to the trail. And then one just started walking, and crossed! And another followed close behind. Others started appearing in the grass. I was able to shoot some photos and video clips of the first babies crossing.

I had to stop shooting to stop park visitors from walking over the baby alligators. But that was fun. More visitors started coming by. Quietly, I motioned for them to stop, then motioned them to approach slowly.  While stopping the visitors (and keeping them quiet them) I whispered about what we were seeing. Unknown to me at the time, Diane had been counting the babies as they crossed. I tried to communicate how very VERY rare the sight of this "parade" was. From what I could tell, the 15-25 people who came by were all engrossed by what they saw. At one point, as I explained how special this was (we were actually seeing something many of the park folks have been wondering about for years!) and when I said that a number of them had crossed so far, Diane then mentioned that 12 had crossed (or 14 at that time).  I explained how the female crossed earlier and how she defends her young. Yet, I pointed out, as we were watching, any number of park predators could have grabbed one of the babies from 40 Acre lake--or what would happen if they just got lost? But, in this case at least, they followed their mother into Pilant Lake.

People were coming from both directions, but I was able to stop them with hand signals. It helped that almost everyone behind *me* was gesturing and whispering to stop as well. They were *all* spellbound as we watched the tiny alligators crossing the trail. It was kind of funny at one time, when 2 folks on bikes came from behind and the whole crowd quietly waved them to stop. I whispered that alligators were crossing the trail. They looked, and couldn't see anything--looked at us like we were crazy. Then...a couple more little ones came out of the grass. Alligators were crossing, but at about 8 inches each, quite a bit smaller than the 6' or greater ones that usually cross.
Everyone cooperated, and as a result, we got to watch 16 alligators cross the trail. As the  babies straggled across to Pilant Lake they began chirping. After a while, the mother alligator would come out of the rice, and approach the bank, and wait for the babies to swim to her. Then she would move back toward the rice. She did this a number of times--swam out towards the trail, met some babies, moved back to the rice so the babies would follow.
Baby Number 17 chickened out turned back towards 40 Acre Lake. At this point the sun was going behind clouds, and it was starting to darken. So I walked past the babies, and couldn't see any in the grass. But...there were at least 3 more still in 40 Acre lake. I know because I saw three in the water--but didn't count more. I figured I'd leave and that the remaining babies would cross later.

Although I would have gotten more photos and videos if I had kept "filming"--it was much more rewarding to get all the other park visitors involved. It was a REALLY wonderful thing to see--especially when everyone understood who and where "mom" was, and what went on before, and how alligators defend their young, and much more. That helped put the tiny wanderers into a greater perspective.
Consider this. The babies *knew* which way to go to follow their mother. They couldn't possibly see her. Mom did vocalize once or twice, a sort of low growl-but that's all. I had assumed that the sound was to keep *us* away.  The babies near her did chirp often. But the babies came to the point nearest where their mother was across the trail. They gathered there. And then they climbed up through the grass and crossed the trial, then back down the other side--to where they were met by their mother. They did not spread out in 40 Acre lake. They did not swim back towards the islands. They moved to where the mother alligator was. How did they know which way to go? Did the chirping do it? I've noticed some other things baby alligators do--how they will seek each other out in a tank, or after travel; and that they will often clump together to sun themselves in the wild, or they just maintain a group in the wild. It sure looks to me like some kind of social activity and more than just automatic "seek out the 'alligator-shape'(whatever that would mean to an alligator) because it's safer to be in a group". I suppose those are distinctions that the animal behavior people could make. The pictures are either still photos or edited from frame grabs from the vide. The edited video is here (.wmv 53mb)  
or here (mp4 98mb)


August 19, 2012-- This story actually started in May. On May 27th, a park visitor reported an alligator digging a nest at 40-Acre lake. Alligators had been bellowing there that morning (I know, because I was there) but I had totally missed seeing the alligator and the nest. I went back and took some pictures (one is shown below).  After that, I inspected the nest (which was on one of the islands on the lake--about 50 yards across the water) almost every weekend. I wanted to get a picture of the female on land near the nest.  But, she never appeared in that position.  I did get some pictures of her in the water near her nest--the pictures from 06/10/12 and 06/17/12 below show her clearly.
I continued watching through the summer, although I didn't take pictures every time. For most of the summer, I didn't see her at all, and I worried that something had plundered the nest, or she had abandoned it.  I have a picture from 07/01/12 (below).  Although there is no alligator in the picture,  it does show that the water level has dropped.  Since the nest is on an island, the female could have been on the other side, in the water.  Nothing  changed during the first part of August.

                  nest_052712                                                     nest_061012                              nest_061712                                           nest_070112   

On Friday,  8/10/12 the alligator eggs that were incubating in the Nature Center hatched. I started paying closer attention to the nests outside. Then, on the morning of 08/19/12, I looked at the nest, and saw the image below.  The nest had been devastated!  The top had been dug out, the bark chips pushed aside (interesting--they were just a veneer), and I could see a few fragments of egg shells near the when I looked through binoculars.  

                               nest_081912       COULD BE TROUBLE.....

But I remained hopeful as I scanned the bank of the island. Finally...I saw it.  Tiny yellow vertical lines.  On a tiny body. Then another. And...there was a large alligator's head with more of the tiny alligators around it. THEY HAD HATCHED!!  The image below is stitched together from photos I shot from 50 yards away. And, there is a video clip here (wmv)  or here (mp4).  The video clip is compiled from shots I took at full optical zoom (35X), and then others that I shot with full digital zoom (140X) and compressed so they'd be clearer.  In the video clip, the babies are crawling around, and some seem to be catching food.  I counted at least 13 babies....but at that distance it was hard to make them out if they were clustered together.
                 THE MOTHER                                                                                    ...AND MANY OF HER BABIES!!

                              BABIES 01                                                                BABIES 02                                                               BABIES 03                                                  BABIES 04(WELL...NOT BABIES)
March 21, 2010. The temperature was 40 degrees when I got to the park at about 8:30. I hurried down the 40 Acre Lake Trail for two reasons. One--to see if a Bald Eagle would fly over or hunt; and Two--I was very curious about what the baby alligators that have been seen there would be doing during this cold weather. I easily found the female that had been with the babies. She was lying in the water with just the top of her head and her nostrils above the surface. The water was very clear, and I was hoping to see the baby alligators near her in the water and lying on the bottom. No such luck though. However, after careful searching I found 3 baby alligators hidden among the weeds. At 10:11, I shot this photo of one of them (01). Although immobilized by the cold, it is still very well hidden. Here's the mother at the same time (02). At 10:14 I photographed this one, again well hidden, at the base of a clump of grass (03).
Nothing happened for a while, except that I talked to a number of park visitors as they passed by. As a couple moved by, and were headed towards the Observation Tower, a HUGE flock of White Ibis flew in front of them, heading out over Pilant Lake. Quite breathtaking. So much so, that I stood there and gaped instead of snapping a picture.
Above and behind them (and almost in the sun) a large bird flew in the same direction. I took a quick look through my binoculars--then dropped them and grabbed my
camera. The bird was far from me, but I got one shot at about 10:45. This was the best I could do with the photo (04). The bird was far off. I tried to walk after it, but as I
watched, it seemed to drop out of sight. But I could see enough to be sure it was a Bald Eagle! 

                          BABIES 05                                                   BABIES 06                                                BABIES 07                                                   BABIES 08
At about 11:40, one of the small babies appeared, and a minute or so later, one of the large ones. I shot this (05) at 11:43. After that, one baby after another appeared from the same spot in the water in the grass. I shot this (06) at 11:44; and then 11:45 I got these two moving towards each other (07). In another few minutes, at 11:47 it started to get crowded (08). This group probably represents the offspring from two years. The smaller babies would have hatched around last September, and the larger babies probably hatched the year before that. They are still so small because they wouldn't eat much (if at all) during the months October - February. It was an uncommon chance to see these young alligators.

                      BABIES 09                                               BABIES 10                                                   BABIES 11                                                  BABIES 12
Notice how many of them are appearing from the same direction. Here's the pile (09) at 11:51; from another angle (10) at 11:55; and from other angles (11,12) at 11:56. From then, they just laid in the sun all day. From time to time through the day, the mother would back away from the shore a few feet (13). She'd stay in the slightly deeper water for a little while (I didn't time it) and then move back to her spot near the bank (14). This seemed like odd behavior. She wasn't hunting. I finally guessed that since the temperature had dropped so quickly, the water would be warmer than the air--especially the deeper water--and the female was actually "warming up" by retreating to slightly deeper water. But, that's just a guess. I stayed with these alligators for most of the day, until I left at about 3.  I'm passing on this story so we can help dispel some of the worry that some of our park visitors have for the baby alligators when the weather turns bad. They sure looked ok to *me*. Today's RICKUBISCAM shot shows one of the babies near the mother's head.

                     BABIES 13                                                 BABIES 14

08/28/2009-  Even though this has been a dry summer through most of Texas, we had one or two good instances of rainfall this spring. Evidently, the alligators at Brazos Bend State Park liked the amount water in the lakes (managed very well by Park Manager Steve Killian) enough to make at least 24 nests this year. As usual there is at least one nest that can spare some eggs due to questionable circumstances. This year a little over 30 were gathered and incubated. Today, a few began hatching by poking their noses through the shells so we met to help the alligators hatch. I was able to make it this year. We had a good crowd (but not a huge one)  for the hatching, and I even got a chance to hatch a couple eggs myself! Watching the people watching the hatching is always fun; but hatching an egg myself...well that's even better.  With all the milling around and so on, I couldn't record a lot, but I've done it before on my other pages
( babies 1 , babies 2  ,babies 3 ).  Here are a few pictures from today. Today's RICKUBISCAM is another shot of the newly-hatched alligators piled together.


The story behind these eggs--The park had borrowed about 33 eggs from one of the alligator nests at Brazos Bend State Park some weeks ago (there were 24 nests reported in the park this year).  The eggs are placed in conditions similar to the nest (dirt/vegetation/heat/moisture) for the remainder of the 60-day incubation period. For those of us who work at the park (State employees and Volunteers) this is an exciting time; and we await news of when the eggs will hatch. They are monitored constantly. This is necessary because it is possible for the babies to suffocate in the shells if they aren't released in time. This is partially because we can't exactly copy conditions in the field, so the eggshells sometimes aren't weakened by the chemical/bacterial action of the nest. In any case, even on the wild nests the female alligator will sometimes help eggs hatch by gently crushing them in its mighty jaws, and carrying babies to the water. This *sounds* unlikely, but we have seen (and some have videotaped) this gentle handling at the park.   Sometimes (like this year) the babies will let us know it's time by breaking through the egg shells (I said *sometimes* they can't), and/or chirping (see the image below). Then we have a few hours to get started. The waiting is to allow people to get to the park to witness the event. We just try to get there in time. :-)

As with many unique natural events at the park, we try to use the opportunity to share something really unique with the people who visit the park. Few people get a chance to hold an actual American Alligator. And, fewer still get to HATCH one.  There is nothing like the feeling of seeing the little head pop out of the egg, and watching that 8-inch long baby dragon uncurl as it comes out of the egg and takes its first look at the world. By the way, baby alligators don't "imprint". That is, they do not *ever* recognize humans as a parental figure--even if they are hatched by a human. Even babies we have kept for a year will still recognize an adult female alligator when they are released and will chirp and swim towards  her. On her part, the adult responds to the chirps and will become immediately defensive of the babies she has never seen before.
Most of these newly-hatched will be released back to one of the females in the park (possibly the one they were borrowed from) within a few weeks. Baby alligators are near the bottom of the food chain (even though the female protects them through incubation and a few years after hatching). The ones we hatch have a good chance for those few weeks. We keep a few in the nature center (to be released next year when we get new ones). A few others go to some local educational facilities and parks.

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.

    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:


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
           Go back to the RICKUBISCAM page.
           Go back to the See the World page.