Below is our 3rd installment of frequently asked questions about alligators. Check out part 1 and part 2 by following the links below and look for more fun facts and answered questions to follow.
How does a ranch-raised alligator adjust to being released into the wild? Is growth rate affected?
Studies have shown that a released alligator’s growth rate is affected by captive rearing. Ranch-raised alligators released into the wild continue to grow faster than their wild relatives even years after their release.
How many eye lids do alligators have?
Alligators have three eyelids per eye. Like us, they have one that closes down and one that closes up. They also have a 3rd eyelid that closes from the front of the eye to the back. This eyelid is clear and is closed whenever underwater, while fighting, or while eating prey.
Why has the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries chosen to adopt the radical concept of harvesting all the eggs from the nest of the Louisiana Alligator?
With only 6-8 out of every hundred eggs surviving in the wild without human intervention, a nest of 25 eggs will likely have 2 or fewer survivors growing to 4 feet. The Louisiana Rancher has a hatch rate of 80 out of 100 eggs and a greater than 99 out of 100 survival rate once hatched. As such, releasing healthy alligators from the ranches results in a greater population increase than leaving the job to momma gator. Further studies have shown that momma alligator continues to lay her eggs year after year even if she never sees any babies born. This would imply that she does not concern herself with her hatching success.
How can the Louisiana Rancher harvest so many eggs from the marshes without harming the population?
The rancher raises the alligator to an average size of 4 feet and then returns 10% of these 4-footers back to the marshes. Studies show that this return rate is twice the number that would survive to a size of 4 feet if the alligator eggs were simply left alone.
Is the American Alligator currently an Endangered Species?
Was the American Alligator ever an Endangered Species?
Prior to the mid 1960’s, the American Alligator was not protected in any way and was one of the most highly valued exotic skins (leather) in the world. Harvesting of wild alligators throughout their range was very profitable and generally conducted without regard to consequences to the population. The result was dramatic population declines throughout their range of habitat.
In the early 1960’s, studies showed the entire population of the American Alligator to be roughly 300,000, half of which lived in Louisiana. The Louisiana Wildlife & Fisheries was the guiding influence that resulted in the American Alligator being put into the Endangered Species Program in 1965.
The American Alligator, 300,000 strong and declining, was not technically an Endangered Species. However, it was put into the program because the American Alligator resembles other Crocodilian that were at that time endangered. Why was this done? Largely because it was so difficult to tell different Crocodilians apart. After all, who do you know can tell the difference between an alligator, crocodile, or caiman? And more importantly, who can tell the difference between their skins? So, to protect the endangered species, all Crocodilian species were and still are protected. In summary, the American Alligator is not and was never an Endangered Species.