All About Alligators!
Are there dinosaurs among us?
If you are going to spot an alligator in North Carolina, it's most likely to be in an area like Sunset Beach! They don't like cooler temperatures up North (it limits their ability to reproduce, eat, and grow), but our little town near the South Carolina coast is warm and balmy... perfect for an alligator to raise her little family. Here is some more information about alligators, and how and when you might spot them near Sunset Beach, North Carolina.
Fun facts about alligators:
Alligators are reptiles - really big reptiles!
Reptiles are classified as air-breathing vertebrates that are covered in scales or bony plates. Reptiles are cold-blooded and love to sit in the sun. Don't worry, you won't find one sunbathing next to you on Sunset Beach. But they do love our sunny climate!
Alligators "hide" in dens during the winter.
Like all reptiles, alligators are most active when the temperature is warm (from early spring through fall). Once the temperature drops to around 70 degrees, they actually stop eating! Using their powerful claws, alligators burrow down into the embankment of a pond or river bank. Then, they basically go dormant for the winter. That actually sounds kind of awesome, don't you think?
Male alligators can get up to 500 lbs.
That being said, the North Carolina alligators grow a lot more slowly because of our cooler temperatures, so you aren't likely to find one that big around here. They only grow around 3-4 inches per year. Female gators are going to be much smaller, topping out around 200 lbs. Gators actually can't reproduce until they reach a length of about 6 feet, so that's why you just don't see that many around here. Males usually reach this length when they are 15, and females reach 6 feet when they are about 19. Gators in the wild can live into their 40's!
It is illegal to kill, harm or harass an alligator in North Carolina
Since it's a little cooler here, Alligators don't grow or reproduce as quickly as they do in a state like Florida. Therefore, they are a protected species in North Carolina. Keep your distance!
Alligators don't want anything to do with you.
If you take proper precautions (leash your dog if you are near a pond or creek, don't feed the wildlife, and if you see an alligator, just leave him be). Alligators are somewhat shy and reclusive. Observe from a distance, and they aren't likely to hurt you.
They are most active at dusk and at dawn.
Hmm. That is also when sharks are most active. Maybe stay in your Sunset Beach vacation rental during those times.
The average mama alligator will lay about 35 eggs at a time!
Baby gators incubate in their cozy eggs for about 70 days. Are they going to be boys or girls? The temperature of the nest will determine that! If the nest hovers around 90 degrees during the critical period in the middle of their incubation, the baby gators will be bouncing baby boys. If it's colder or hotter than that? Break out the pink...girls are on their way.
Another interesting note about mama alligators - they are really good moms! Most reptiles say "peace out" once their babies are born, but mother alligators not only help their babies hatch and find their water source, they care for their young for several years. Think of all those teeth they have to brush!
Where to find them:
Alligators love to hang out in swamps and canals, creeks and rivers. They love our tidal marshes and that is where you are most likely to spot them. Alligators prefer fresh to brackish (slightly salty) waters, although sometimes they find their way all the way to the super salty ocean. Is this by accident or on purpose? We're not really sure, since they can only tolerate the ocean for small periods of time.
That being said, alligators are very private individuals and really don't like to hang out where people do. This is a good thing! They are very powerful and strong, so it's best that we all keep our distance. The odds of actually seeing an alligator on your vacation are quite low. But if you would like to see one in real life, here are some ways you can do it:
🐊 Carefully explore our inlets and waterways by kayak or stand up paddleboard. Find out how, here.
🐊 Take a Swamp Boat Eco Tour at the Shallotte River Swamp Park. It's possible you will spot an alligator, but if not, there are plenty of other wildlife sightings to be had.
🐊 Visit the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher and meet their rare albino alligator named Luna! She also has some regular-colored roommates who would love a visit.
"Luna" – Image courtesy of the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher
Never feed an alligator.
Keep your dog on a tight leash and don't go too close to the shore of a pond or swamp.
Always stay at least 50 feet away from an alligator.
If you would like to learn more about the wildlife you are likely to spot when you visit Sunset Beach, please read this blog post: The Most Wonderful Wildlife on Sunset Beach. When you book your vacation through Sunset Vacations, you know you will have secured the perfect launching point for all of your beach vacation adventures! Please contact us to get started.