Love and Courtship on the Farm
It’s the time of year where chocolates in heart-shaped boxes line the shelves and make the perfect gift for that special someone. For our alligators, the love and courtship comes when the weather gets a bit warmer, usually around mid-April and lasting through the end of May. Rising temperatures in the spring usher in the season of love on the farm as our male alligators set their sights on a mate.
The complex mating ritual begins with the male alligator announcing his presence with low bellowing sounds and by slapping his tail, sending vibrations through the water. On the farm, we call this their “water dance.” Like many other animals, alligators looking to mate will release an odor from their musk glands to make their presence known.
Direct courtship is initiated when an alligator identifies a potential mate. The male alligator will begin rubbing and pressing his snout and back against the female, a key aspect of the mating ritual. This serves as a contest of strength to prove he is better than other potential suitors. The routine may last hours compared to the very short act of copulation.
The female must then choose her mate, who will scare off the other suitors and push the female, making his intentions clear. After the pair mate, the male restarts the rituals while the female retreats to build her nest from mud, plants and sticks found around the swamp before beginning the ritual again. Female alligators renest in the same spot 70% of the time – both in the wild and here at the farm.
Female alligators frequently mate with multiple males, meaning there could be multiple fathers within her one clutch of eggs laid. On average, females lay around 35 eggs, though a clutch can be anywhere from 20 to 50 eggs. After covering them in her nest, the incubation period begins. Lasting for about 65 days, the baby alligators will hatch in mid-August or early September. We look forward to another year of hatchlings on the farm!