Monday, December 18, 2006

Gator Summer

Today was even warmer (close to 80F) than this weekend making it feel more like summer than Christmas in the swamp! Visitors reported seeing the alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) in Goodsen Lake at the end of the boardwalk. The image shows a similar alligator downstream in Mallard Lake.

In this area, the alligators are generally inactive between October and March. Alligators spend the winter in burrows or "dens" that they dig, but will venture out on a warm day. Studies of captive individuals have shown that alligators eat less when the temperature drops below 80F and stop eating all together once the temperature drops below 73F. Alligators can even survive the occasional freeze by keeping their nostrils above the water, even if their bodies are trapped in the ice! They can easily survive on their energy reserves, since their medabolic rate is slowed dramatically.

Winter may only be four days away, but it sure feels like Gator Summer!

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