The American Alligator is the largest reptile in North America. Travel with us as we search for Kiawah's biggest gators and learn about these impressive predators. This is a fantastic way to observe and learn about these amazing, and often misunderstood animals in their natural habitat.
|Requirements:||An adult must accompany children under 16. Children must be 6 years old to participate.|
|Fee:||$20 per person|
|What to bring:||Comfortable walking shoes, camera and drinking water during hotter months.|
|Schedule:||This program is offered throughout the year, times vary. For a scedule, please call or visit the Heron Park Nature Center at (843) 768-6001.|
Alligators have lived and nested on Kiawah and surrounding areas since long before humans arrived. Inhabiting fresh and brackish water wetlands throughout the southeast, these reptiles can reach 12 feet in length, be in excess of 1000 pounds, and have a lifespan greater than 60 years.
During the few cold winter days we experience on Kiawah, our Alligators are dormant, simply lying on the bottom of a pond, lake or river, or in underground dens scooped out with their jaws and claws. The den is usually underwater and the alligator’s metabolism slows to the point where it only needs to breathe a few times a day. This is accomplished by just raising its nostrils above the surface of the water while keeping its body fully submerged in the warmer water.
With the arrival of spring, adult alligators of both sexes can be heard bellowing. This activity serves several purposes; it is used to attract mates, let potential mates know their location, and act as a territorial warning. Alligators usually mate during May, and by June females are in the process of building mound-shaped nests out of grasses or other vegetation, usually within 10-15 feet from the pond edge. The females bury an average of 44 oblong, white eggs in the nest. She guards the nest fiercely against predators during the 60-65 day incubation period. Be warned that gators may charge humans if their nest or young are bothered. Keep your eyes open and stay clear.
Hatching peaks in late August. Once hatched, the babies need mama’s help to get out of the nest. She digs open the mound and carries the young that have made their way out of the eggs to the water in her mouth. Even more amazing, she cracks unopened eggs with her jaws and liberates the young in the water. The baby alligators immediately begin feeding on insects, small fish, and various aquatic life. Although mom protects her young, only about 10% survive. Baby gators are eaten by many of the same animals that adult alligators feed on. These include raccoons, snakes, large wading birds, large fish, and sometimes other alligators.
Regardless of the time of year you visit Kiawah, there is always something interesting happening with our alligator population. Join our Naturalists in the field for Alligator Adventure or Gator Walk and discover firsthand the life history of these amazing creatures.