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Alligator mississippiensis
Status Extremely common in Katy, common in Cypress Texas Notes I will start this section off with a fact-alligators are extremely common in Katy Texas and common in Cypress Texas.  Many people in the area do not seem to realize this fact and are shocked when they see a wild alligator or warning signs around bayous warning that alligators live here.  Every March and April there are always news stories about alligators (exaggerated by the press of course to be at least 10 feet long) entering somebodies yard and the resident interviewed is always seems shocked that alligators exist.  What you need to know is if you live in Katy or are considering living here that every drainage ditch, pond, bayou, or lake in the area can potentially have an alligator in it.  Nobody in Katy has been forced to live next to a bayou or go jogging on sidewalks next to bayous.  Unfortunately due to television shows such as Swamp People that routinely label alligators as “beasts” and make them look like evil killers there are millions of viewers being miseducated about alligators.  Viewers of the show are essentially told that alligators are a menace that are better off dead and that large ones should be killed and bragged about as a trophy.  The amount of lies and misinformation given in a single episode is enough to make anyone with a brain want to scream.  As an alligator lover I will take this chance to explain some facts i’ve learned about them over the years. Mythical Danger Alligators are not menacing creatures that prey on humans and here are some facts why this is true: Since records have been kept only one person has been killed by an alligator in the state of Texas in 2015.  The circumstances behind it clearly show the human was at fault but the alligator was still murdered afterwards. At Brazos Bend State Park where 10+ foot alligators routinely sit on the trail and people pass within mere feet of them every single day nobody has ever been injured by an alligator. “According to hospital authorities in Miami and Houston, fewer than a dozen injuries from alligators are reported each year, whereas each of these areas has more than five thousand dog-bite victims!” (Gibbons, Whit “Their Blood Runs Cold”) While it has been reported by some idiots (including local news media) that an alligator can run ridiculous speeds such as thirty or forty miles per hour on land this is a fantasy.  No alligator has ever been recorded even at a gallop at higher than 10 mph, while humans can reach over 20 mph.  No alligator will run fast enough to catch an adult human or even a child on the land.  Alligators will make no more than a lunge of a foot or two from the water even at their most aggressive. This is not meant to say that alligators cannot be dangerous.  In my opinion alligators are dangerous in two situations- female alligators guarding their nest, and alligators that have been fed by humans and have learned to associate humans with food.  If you use common sense and keep your distance from them alligators are nothing to fear.  Here are some tips regarding common sense in areas where alligators occur specifically based on things I have seen in Katy: Do not take your dogs to the bayou and throw toys in the water for them to fetch.  Your dog can and many have been killed by alligators.  I cannot believe how many idiots I see doing this exact activity on a weekly basis.  You only have yourself to blame if your pet is killed due to your own stupidity do not try to blame the alligator by calling it a nuisance! If you are walking on a nature trail near water at night either carry a flashlight or wear a headlamp.  Alligators will travel between bodies of water at night.  For instance, they may move from an oxbow lake back down into a nearby bayou and cross a sidewalk during that time.  Research has documented alligators hunting on land and you are just inviting trouble walking around in the dark.  Click here to read study by Vladimir Dinets on the subject.  Turning on the LED light from your cellphone every 50 feet to see the ground is not going to work the same as carrying an actual light.  I constantly see people around Katy walking along bayous and nature trails at night with no form of lighting who are at risk from animals, tripping hazards, and other humans they cannot see Know your surroundings and the wildlife existing there!  The photos below are from one of my time lapse trail cameras which is aimed at a spot where an extremely large male alligator basks on a daily basis and has done so since at least 1998 when I first found him there.  You can see him bellowing for females in the first photo.  The human idiot who likely has no idea alligators exist there is wearing a swimsuit and cast net fishing waist deep in the bayou.  Luckily this alligator has not been fed by humans because he could have easily killed this person while they were fishing and splashing around if he associated humans with food.
(American Alligator)
While the alligators develop in their eggs they are in danger from a number of threats.  Raccoons are a constant predator on alligator nests and usually need to be chased off by the mother alligator frequently.  In recent years I have found two nests predated by Solenopsis invicta (fire ants).  At first it may sound impossible that something as small as fire ants could kill an alligator but it makes perfect sense and has been documented in multiple scientific journals for the reasons below: The mother alligator may stop attending the nest due to suffering from S. invicta stings. S. invicta may predate the eggs as they hatch killing the baby alligators still in the egg.  Hatching occurs over multiple days as the young alligators absorb their yolk sack which gives ants the perfect opportunity to attack. S. invicta may predate the hatchling alligators as they leave the nest.  Anyone who has disturbed a fire ant mound knows ants respond by attacking and if an alligator hatches from within an ant mound they can be stung to death before ever reaching the water.  Weather patterns in recent years have significantly caused issues for nests in the Katy area for multiple reasons: In 2011 during the summer drought one mother alligator and her young from the previous year remained guarding the nest even though there was no water in any direction for over 1/2 mile by retreating into her den which retained some water and burying herself in mud.  When the babies hatched the juvenile alligators from the previous year cannibalized all of the hatchlings as they entered the water due to starvation. In 2012 one nest was crushed under a tree that fell directly on it.  The tree had died during the drought in 2011. During the 2013 summer drought I found one nest the mother had abandoned because lack of water in any direction for over 1/4 mile had forced her to leave, all eggs were predated prior to hatching.  The nest constructed in the video above from 2015 was built immediately after the massive Memorial Day rainstorms while water levels were far above normal.  When water levels receded the nest was about 40 feet away from the waters edge and mother alligator had no chance of protecting the nest.  Raccoons predated every single egg, none survived to hatch. Birth In late July to early September the few baby alligators that survive to hatching will begin to crack their egg shells and call out for their mother to help them reach the water.  The mother will typically help dig out the nest and carry some of the hatchlings to the water in her mouth.  At birth the alligators are pretty much defenseless and must remain near their mother to survive, most do not live to adulthood.  The video below shows an alligator nest hatching out in September 2013 in Katy:
Early life After birth the baby alligators remain around the mother for 1-3 years for protection.  They can be seen basking in the sun as a family on most sunny days and the young will call out to their mother if threatened by some type of predator.  I find that the young remain together as a group until reaching around 2.5 - 4 feet in length at which time they disperse and head out on their own.
Alligators around 3-4 feet long seem to cause the most mischief.  They are curious about the world and will hang out around areas like neighborhood nature trails where people feed turtles and ducks.  It is at this time that many of them begin to associate people with food because people will feed the “cute” little alligator along with the turtles not realizing the problems this will cause.  Signs are posted in most of these areas warning against feeding alligators but people choose to ignore them. Later In Life The larger an alligator gets the more secretive it becomes.  By the time they reach around 5 feet in length the only predators they have to worry about are humans and other alligators.  Other than during the mating months or after heavy rains most people in the Katy area will never see any of the larger alligators.  10 foot+ long alligators typically do not hang out in the open on the sides of bayous like smaller ones and they retreat into the water when humans come around.  They do not get that large by being stupid! Alligators typically have a den dug into the bank of their chosen body of water and spend most daylight hours either there or basking in the sun nearby depending on temperature.  At night they will come out to hunt and then go back home without anyone ever seeing their movements.  The dens hold water during periods of drought and I have found they provide shelter for other animals if the alligator has walked away to other water.  During the winter alligators brumate and except for coming to the surface to breathe or bask in the sun on sunny days remain there until spring. 
Considering the rapid rate of home development in the area it is easy to understand why an alligator who has traveled the same route on land from one water source to another can get confused and end up entering the yard of a house that did not exist the previous year.  Unfortunately, it is the alligator that is considered a nuisance and could end up being killed for this confusion by game wardens or a nuisance hunter even though the housing communities are being built directly in alligator habitat.  Anyone who lived in Cinco Ranch in 2003 should remember the day a large alligator was dragged down the street behind a game wardens pickup truck and shot in front of schoolchildren waiting for the school bus one morning.  The neighborhood that incident occurred in is surrounded by oxbow lakes, golf course ponds, and bayous all of which were inhabited by alligators for years before the neighborhood was built.  Humans need to learn to coexist with alligators. Nesting and Birth Sometime between late May and July female alligators will construct a nest near the waters edge on a high point of land where she will lay her eggs.  The video below shows a female alligator in Katy building her nest and laying eggs in 2015:
Female alligators do not necessarily nest every year and may take a break on any given year.  The nest can be made out of many different kinds of materials and images of some nests in Katy appear below.  From the time she lays her nest until the eggs hatch in late July to early September the female alligator will usually stay near the nest and defend it against predators.  During this time the female will also chase off any humans that come close as well so review the images below and avoid walking near an alligators nest.  Not all female alligators will defend their nests but it is best to stay safe by assuming they are around and watching.  The female alligator will only defend the area immediately surrounding the nest and if you remain a safe distance away you are in no danger. 
Another from 2015:
Alligators are a very interesting animal and I am glad to be able to see them on an almost daily basis in Katy.  They have the right to live their lives without being killed by game wardens or as a trophy by a hunter.  I will end this section with a gallery of alligator pictures all taken in Katy shot with a camera not a gun!
Injuries Alligators have a remarkable ability to survive injuries and heal even with no medical attention.  It is somewhat common to see alligators with portions of their tail or even a leg missing.  Take a look at the gallery below at some injuries which may be seen:
Mating From March-May male alligators of breeding size will travel around in search of a mate.  At this time many people notice alligators basking alongside bayous or traveling on land from one water source to another  Male alligators can be distinguished from females while bellowing at this time of year.  Male alligators produce infrasound while bellowing which sends water droplets into the air off their backs while females only bellow and do not produce infrasound.  The video below shows a female alligator bellowing in her pond: