Are you itching to spot alligators in Florida? Well, you can’t miss them if you visit Everglades Alligator Farm, which is crawling with 2000 alligators! Let’s look at what makes Florida the best environment for alligators.
We’ll also discover why Florida Alligator Farm is the best spot to see them.
Why Do Alligators Thrive in Florida?
Florida has a humid climate and close proximity to the ocean, as well as many lakes and swamps. This makes it the perfect home for alligators. It’s estimated the Sunshine State boasts as many as one million alligators.
As reptiles, they need a warm climate to regulate their body temperature. They’re adapted to live on land and in the water. However, they spend most of their time doing their best impression of floating logs. They stay semi-submerged, with only their eyes and nostrils sticking out of the water.
Make no mistake, though, they’re ready at a moment’s notice to grab unsuspecting prey. They do a death roll with it in the water and hold it down until it drowns. Alligators will sometimes wedge large prey under branches underwater to allow it to begin to rot before eating it.
The Role of Alligators in the Ecosystem
There are two species of alligator: the American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) and the Chinese Alligator (Alligator sinensis). Florida’s American alligators are the larger of the two. They weigh up to 1,000 lbs. and measure 8 to 15 feet in length. Females lay between 20-50 eggs. Hatchlings consume mostly invertebrates. However, after they reach full adulthood, they eat birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, and amphibians. They will basically eat anything made of meat they can get in their mouths.
Alligators are a vital player in the wetland ecosystem by helping to control populations of prey species. They have been called “ecosystem engineers” because they create holes. When abandoned, these holes make habitats for other animals, including turtles, invertebrates, birds, fish, and small mammals. It’s hard to imagine a hole made by an alligator as a particularly safe hiding place for any living creature!
What Preys on Alligators?
Alligators’ main predator has always been human beings. Alligator meat is considered an exotic delicacy, and the skin is used for leather shoes, belts, purses, and other accessories. They were once listed as an endangered species due to overhunting. Today, they are prevalent and a species of least concern. This is due to the regulations put in place by the Endangered Species Act of 1973.
It is now illegal to kill wild alligators in Florida unless they are considered a nuisance by state wildlife officials. However, alligators are numerous enough that they are commercially farmed in Florida today for their meat and hides.
Invasive snakes such as Burmese pythons are relatively new predators for alligators. For decades a few boas, pythons, and other constrictors have turned up in the Everglades. Experts believe they escaped or people deliberately released them. However, in 1992, Hurricane Andrew demolished an exotic pet breeding facility, releasing a large number of snakes into the environment.
Since then, their numbers have swelled into the hundreds of thousands. They have reduced the population of small mammals by 90%, depriving alligators of food. Pythons also devour young alligators, further reducing the numbers of this species. Pythons are well on their way to replacing alligators as the apex predators of the Everglades ecosystem.
What Does Everglades Alligator Farm Do?
The Everglades Alligator Farm was founded in 1982 as an attraction for tourists to take airboat rides to see alligators. In 1985 it received approval to farm alligators commercially to help conserve the species. It is now home to over 2,000 alligators and is the largest alligator farm in South Florida.
It is the only alligator farm in the region that doesn’t kill alligators or sell them for meat, though it does sell alligator eggs to other alligator farms all over Florida. As such, it plays a major role in the commercial alligator farming industry and the conservation of alligators at the same time.
What Can You Do at Everglades Alligator Farm?
If you’d like to see the farm for yourself, there’s a lot to see and do there. General admission includes an airboat tour and alligator shows where guests can see the feedings of 500 gators at once and learn about alligator behavior in the wild. A particularly interesting part of the show is learning about how Native Americans captured alligators with basic tools available in their environment. A baby alligator is also passed around for photo ops and a close encounter with the species.
For an additional charge, visitors can schedule a 30-minute airboat tour to go at high speeds through the Everglades with 360-degree spins, learn about life in the swamp and survival techniques, and alligator encounters with the opportunity to handle and feed and handle live alligators (all of which sounds like a great big “yikes!” but to each his own!) If you do go on an airboat, be aware it’s super loud and you will get wet. Hearing protection is provided if you didn’t bring your own. Larger groups can schedule longer airboat tours and a naturalist to accompany the group and explain the swamp ecosystem in greater detail.
Once you’ve had all the alligators you can handle, you can always check out some of the nearby attractions in Homestead, Florida, including the Fruit & Spice Park, Knaus Berry Farm, Homestead Miami Speedway, Coral Castle, Schnebly Redlands Winery, Everglades Outpost Wildlife Refuge, and Homestead Bayfront Park.
So, at and near Everglades Alligator Farm there’s plenty to do for every level of alligator enthusiast, and lots of opportunities to take safe selfies with some of the most unsafe carnivores in the world!
Where is Florida Located on a Map?
Florida, positioned at the southernmost tip of the United States, is bordered by both the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, and boasts numerous miles of beautiful beaches, while Miami is renowned for its Latin-American cultural impact and thriving arts community, as well as its lively nightlife, particularly in the exclusive South Beach area, and Orlando is famous for its amusement parks, such as Walt Disney World.
Here is Florida on a map:
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