Be Aware of Alligator Mating Season

What you need to know about alligators during the warmer season:

When are alligators active? Alligators are active all during the year but they are most active in the warmer months in parts of South Carolina, especially the Lowcountry. During winter, alligators are more lethargic and do not move as quickly as they do in the spring or summer months. When temperatures rise to between 82 and 92 degrees alligators become more visible as they sunbathe and warm up.

When is mating season? Mating season begins in April and runs through July with hatchlings appearing during August and September.

What to know about mating season: During courting, males “bellow” to females and other males in the area. Alligators communicate through bellowing and slapping their heads against the water. They sound as if they are growling or grumbling loudly when they do communicate or when they are searching for a mate. Alligators sometimes excavate burrows or dens that can damage dikes, levees and impoundments, and breach fences when they are active.

By June, pairs have mated and females begin building mound nests out of marsh reeds or other vegetation. After mating, the female alligator begins her nesting. Sometime during late June or early July females lay between 20 and 60 eggs. During this period, a female alligator can be more aggressive as she defends the nest against predators throughout the entire incubation period which lasts about 65 days or longer.

When the eggs are ready to hatch, the mother alligator digs into the nest mound, opens any eggs that have not hatched and carries the young down to the water. The hard-shelled, white eggs, the mother alligator lays, are about three inches long and resemble goose eggs. Females sometimes aggressively defend their young for more than a year.

Can you put up a barrier or fence? According to the SCDNR (South Carolina Department of Natural Resources), most wetland modifications are unlawful and can be detrimental to other wildlife. Check with appropriate conservation authorities before modifying wetlands. Eliminate emergent vegetation to reduce cover for alligators. Construct trails at least 15 feet from the edge of water. Keep vegetation cut along trails.

Where are they most dangerous? Alligators are most dangerous in water or at the edge of water. They occasionally make forays over land in search of new habitat, mates, or prey. Along waterways and lakes, concrete or wooden bulkheads that are at least three feet above the high-water mark will discourage alligators from getting to land. Alligators have been documented climbing 5-foot chain-link fences to get at dogs. Angle the top of a fence outward to prevent climbing. All fences should be made with 4-inch mesh, with two feet buried into the soil. Alligators have difficulty digging in firm, dry soil but they easily excavate soil that is mucky.  

In South Carolina, nuisance alligators should be reported to SCDNR. Licensed trappers have been permitted by the SCDNR to remove and dispatch any alligator who may exhibit aggressiveness, habituated behavior towards humans (most likely from feeding), illness/injury, or inhabit a recreational swimming area.

These dinosaur-like creatures, as intriguing as they are, are extremely dangerous and should never be taunted or harassed. In fact, they should be left alone and when encountered, reported to the SCDNR.

– Submitted by Seabrook Island Town Hall