In Texas, if you enjoy recreational activities in the lower Brazos River basin, you could find yourself sharing your next outing with these armored creatures. They have been sighted in close to 125 Texas counties, or about half the state. Anywhere east of Interstate-35 you will find gators. They have been seen (but not necessarily confirmed) in a variety of locations, including Lakes Granbury, Waco, Worth, and Hempstead, the Lampasas River above Stillhouse Hollow, and particularly in the highly populated areas in the lower portions of the Brazos River basin. Brazos Bend State Park in Needville has a population estimated to be larger than 250 adults.
Alligators are the largest reptiles in North America and are capable of reaching more than 10 feet as adults. Most people assume that they are an endangered species but, in fact, they aren’t. They are now a protected game animal in the state of Texas and a permit is required to hunt, raise or possess an alligator.
The heavy and abundant rains this past spring provide excellent habitat conditions and further promoted the growing half-million plus gator population in Texas. Flooding can cause them to relocate further upstream on the Brazos. But, they are on the move not just for survival. May is their mating season, which lasts until June, and is a time when many alligator sightings are common. Nest building occurs in late June to early July. Gators build their nest on a mound on land unlike crocodiles who dig their nest into the ground. They protect their young for at least two years, so, should you find a nest, know that a potentially unhappy mama gator will be nearby. Texans are highly certain to see alligators crossing the road just as much as deer do in some areas. Even basking in drainage ditches near residential homes isn’t uncommon for these reptilian rogues.
In the event you do come upon and alligator, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) states that it is illegal to remove them from their natural habitat, or to keep one as a pet. Even feeding one is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $500. TPWD also notes that gators have a natural fear of humans and should not be provoked. They can run up to 35 miles-per-hour, so don’t assume that they are slow and lethargic. Stay clear and leash any pets if you are on a walk outside near a body of water. If they hiss that means they are angry. You should call your TPWD regional office if you deem it a nuisance gator that could pose a threat to human safety.
Just like fish and other aquatic species that coexist along the Brazos banks, alligators are still in the same ecosystem and active, so be aware of these large creatures when navigating the Brazos River and other waters within the lower basin. For additional information on alligators in Texas, go here. For more on alligators at Brazos Bend State Park, go here.