Having spent several winters in the Florida Everglades, doing wildlife photography and research, I have had the opportunity to observe baby alligators close up. I find alligators to be fascinating creatures. Their silent armored presence fascinates me. There are only two species of alligators in all the world- the American Alligator found only in the southeastern United States, and the rare Chinese Alligator of the Yangtse River. Alligators and their 21 other relatives are the last of the living reptiles closely related to dinosaurs. With ancestors beginning 245 million years ago, the group – which includes alligators, crocodiles, gharials, and caiman – appeared during the Triassic period, and the species we see today have changed little in the last 65 million years.
New hatchlings weigh only 2 ounces, and are 6-8 inches long. While babies must find their own food (worms, insects, small fish) from the very start, their momma will stay close, protecting them for 1-2 years! This is unparalleled behavior for the reptile world. If you see a baby alligator in the wild, remember, the young stay very close to their mother. Even if you cannot see her, she is closely watching you, and she will act fast if her baby sounds alarmed! Though destined to become the future top predators in the swamp’s food chain, young alligators are vulnerable to raccoons, snakes, herons, egrets, otters, osprey, large fish- even other alligators – in an odd twist of fate, the very creatures that will later become their prey! Alligators lucky enough to reach 4’ (growing 6”-12” a year), will have only one predator – man.
In the meantime, Mom makes a great launching pad for quick dips, and a safe platform for sunning and resting. I had to capture this tender time in sculpture!
(This life sized bronze would make a really great water feature snuggled in amongst pond plants)
This piece has juried to participate in some of the best U.S. and Canadian wildlife art and sculpture shows in the U.S. and Canada:
“The Swimming Lesson” – Am. Alligators, earned 3rd Place Award, Sculpture Division, at the 2008 Ward World Championship Carving Competition, Ocean City, Maryland;
This piece was selected for inclusion in the prestigious 2009 “Society of Animal Artists” 49th annual International Show of Wildlife Art, which was held at Rolling Hills Wildlife Adventure in Salina, Kansas;
“The Swimming Lesson” was also selected for inclusion in the 2009/2010 Society of Animal Artists touring western exhibition, “Art and the Animal”, which opened at “The Wildlife Experience Museum”, Parker, Colorado / The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Tucson, Arizona / and Greenacres Art Center, Cincinnati, Ohio;
It was also included in the 2010 Artists For Conservation Foundation’s annual “The Art of Conservation” show.