Love in the swamp: Gatorland educates public on alligator mating season

Theme park giving safety tips as reptiles are on the move

ORLANDO, Fla. – Experts at Orlando’s famous roadside attraction, Gatorland, are busy educating the public about the mating season of Florida’s most popular reptiles.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, alligator courtship begins in early April with mating season beginning in May or June. Females will build a mound nest of soil, vegetation, or debris and lay an average of 32 to 46 eggs in late June or early July. The eggs will then hatch between mid-August to early September.

Currently, the alligator paradise along Orange Blossom Trail is becoming a little more active as love becomes more noticeable in the swamps.

“This is the best time of year to be a Gatorland because it’s starting to warm up, the alligators are getting into their breeding season, so they’re very active,” Mike Hileman, Gatorland Park Director said. “The alligators are swimming around. There’s some fighting going on, territorial battles. It’s usually a lot of vocalizations, grunting, bellowing and some head slaps, and some are chasing competitors out of the way.”

More than 100 gators can be found in Gatorland's Alligator Breeding Marsh (McReynolds)

One area guests will see this type of activity is in the theme park’s 10-acre alligator breeding marsh.

The area features 150 alligators, 100 females and 50 males, as well as a nesting ground for dozens of migratory birds.

During this time of the year, Gatorland experts are out teaching people about alligator safety in Florida.

“It is not unusual during this time to see lots of alligator stories in the news, however, I’ve seen more alligator stories in the news this year than I ever have in the history of my living in Florida,” Savannah Boan, head of Crocodilian Enrichment said.

Experts at Orlando’s famous roadside attraction, Gatorland, are busy educating the public about the mating season of Florida’s most popular reptiles.

Boan’s comments ring true as news outlets around Florida report stories of alligator close-encounters.

Some stories include an alligator walking into a Tampa area home, Seminole county deputies who wrangled a gator at an intersection and an alligator going poolside.

And it’s not just in Florida, in Houston, a large alligator had to be roped up after stopping morning traffic along a bridge.

Gatorland alligators (McReynolds)

According to Florida wildlife officials, alligators prefer fresh water lakes and slow-moving rivers and their associated wetlands, but they also can be found in brackish water habitats. During mating season, more alligators are the move to various bodies of waters and to reproduce.

“First of all, you need to watch every body of water, your bathtub, your swimming pool, your backyard pond, your mud puddles that your kids play in --anywhere an alligator can be found right now, because alligators are on the run, especially the smaller ones that are easier to hide,” Boan explained. “The big bull alligators are pushing all the little ones out because they want all the ladies to themselves.”

Gatorland has been a leader in alligator safety and conservation since its inception in 1949.

Leaders stress that during this time of the year, Floridians should keep their distance from the reptiles and call wildlife experts to relocate them if they get close.

Alligator at Gatorland (McReynolds)

“If you do see one of those nuisance alligators, make sure you call FWC,” Boan pointed out. “We have a program in place where we can bring some of those big old alligators that haven’t done anything wrong, they were just caught in the wrong place, at the wrong time. We bring them to Gatorland and they can live out the rest of their life here in alligator paradise.”

Along with educating people on alligator mating season and safety tips, Gatorland is also one of the few places where guests can feed alligators safely, something you cannot do in the wild.

“Alligators appetites are increasing, so they’re eating a lot and the guests can come in, buy some food, and throw the food to the alligator so it’s very interactive,” Hileman said.

Over 2,000 American alligators call the theme park home.

Some have been relocated to the park after being found by trappers in Florida communities. One of those stories is Larry, the alligator from the Villages.

Larry the alligator at Gatorland (Gatorland)

Gatorland said the residents of The Villages loved Larry, but unfortunately some people would illegally feed him causing Larry to lose his natural fear of humans. The 12-foot alligator was relocated to the park in 2019 after he was considered dangerous to people and their pets.

Today, Larry is enjoying the water at Gatorland with his one of several girlfriends, one we’re told goes by the name Mary.

Larry’s success story has him now in the running to be on the tail wing of a Frontier Airlines plane tail wing.

Click here to learn more about Gatorland, their several attractions and ticket information.

Click here to watch some of Gatorland’s vlogs on its YouTube channel, which helps in its conservation efforts.

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About the Author:

Landon joined News 6 in 2017. He grew up in Southern Illinois and graduated from Southern Illinois University with a bachelors degree in TV and digital media. When he is not at work you can catch him at one of Orlando's theme parks or the beach. Before working at News 6 he worked for stations in Miami and Fort Myers.