Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter


from the March16, 2009 Newsletter, issued from near Natchez, Mississippi:

One afternoon this week Karen and I returned to St. Catharine National Wildlife Refuge just south of Natchez. It was sunny, breezy, the temperature was in the low 80s, and in general it couldn't have been more pleasant. We saw about half a dozen American Alligators, ALLIGATOR MISSISSIPPIENSIS, each sighting more spectacular than the last. You can see the last one above.

That alligator is about eight feet long. I read that the average size for adult females is around ten feet and 200-250 pounds while adult males reach 13-15 feet and weigh 450-600 pounds, the record confirmed length being 19 feet, 2 inches long, caught in Louisiana. Still, most alligators seen around here are much smaller than the one in the picture. Karen has been around them all her life but had never encountered one that big. When we spotted this one, Karen began reconsidering her plan to return and fish in that spot.

I read that you can't determine an alligator's gender without inserting fingers in places I have no interest in exploring. The individual in the picture had his mouth closed nearly the whole time I was there so I'm pretty sure he opened his mouth to threaten me. Also, alligators inflate their bodies as part of their threatening behavior, so I suspect that much of what looks like a very well-fed alligator body is air.


Above you see two smaller alligators we'd met earlier. We watched as the two gators approached one another on a direct collision path. When they got about six feet apart they both stopped and just waited. Finally the closest one, a little smaller than the other, turned to the side and let the bigger proceed in his straight line.

Back to those open jaws: I read that humans can bite with a force ranging from 55-200 pounds. Lions can bite with a force of 940 pounds, and a 12-foot alligator can bite with a force of 2,125 pounds!

A University of Florida web page provides a lot more alligator information, pictures and references at http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/cnhc/csp_amis.htm.

from the April 15, 2012 Newsletter, issued from near Natchez, Mississippi:

Last weekend Karen and I visited St. Catherine Creek National Wildlife Refuge about a twenty minute drive from here. Mostly the Refuge consists of seasonally flooded fields, swamps and bottomland forest along the Mississippi River. On sunny days it's hard to be there long without spotting alligators basking on ditch banks or floating in the water.

At the top of this page you see a big alligator also photographed in the Refuge. This week we ran across the tracks of one that must have been a real giant, as shown below

prnts of big Alligator, Alligator mississippiensis

The size of the print behind Karen's palm is scary. Of course the scrape mark across the bottom of the picture is from the dragged tail.

This week mainly we saw little Alligators about leg-long. While the big one shown at the top of our page is uniformly gray, a juvenile hauling himself onto a log displays bold spotting and barring along his side below:

Young Alligator showing barring and spotting along side