Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Beaver Beware!

We thought the recently-arrived Beaver (Castor canadensis) had until the spring before it needed to worry about the American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) patrolling the waters of the Francis Beidler Forest. As yesterday's images show, the large gator is quite conscious as the daytime temperatures nearly reached 70F. However, the water is still a chilly 46F (8C), which is too cold for the alligator to eat.

Once the water temperature drops below 60F, alligators cease eating. Alligators require the heat of the sun to help activate their digestive enzymes, so having a full stomach in these temperatures would likely be fatal. If eaten, the beaver would rot in the alligator's stomach instead of digesting. The beaver should still be wary or have a keen sense of when the water temperature hits 60F.

The next time you see an alligator sunning itself on a log or bank, it is likely using the sun to digest its last meal. It is unlawful to feed or harass alligators and they can outrun a human for short distances. However, if the alligator is sunning, it is likey not hungry and certainly less of a threat than one submerged and nearly invisible at the water's edge.

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