Have you ever wondered what kinds of animals eat alligators? As apex predators, alligators are formidable foes, but they do occasionally fall prey to other creatures. In this post, we’ll take a look at some of the animals bold enough to make a meal out of these armored reptiles.
Believe it or not, alligators themselves will eat other alligators! This cannibalism usually occurs when resources are scarce. Larger gators will prey on smaller juveniles and even on injured or deceased adult alligators. This allows them to eliminate competition and get an easy meal. Alligator cannibalism is most common during times of drought when their usual food sources become harder to find. So while you might expect alligators to only eat smaller animals, they’re not above feasting on their own kind when pickings are slim. The circle of life can be brutal in the swamps!
Clever little raccoons are one of the most notorious alligator predators. These resourceful mammals are found throughout the southeastern US, which overlaps with the alligator’s territory. Raccoons will approach alligator nests to steal eggs and feed on defenceless hatchlings. They raid nests in the spring and early summer when female alligators are busy guarding territories and may be away from the nest.
Raccoons employ several tactics for safely raiding gator nests. Mother alligators fiercely guard their nests, so raccoons often strike when she is gone. They may also work as a team, with one raccoon distracting the mother while another raids the nest. Raccoons have even been observed rolling eggs away from the nest before cracking them open to eat. Their intelligence and nimble paws allow them to take advantage of this rich food source under the alligator’s nose!
As fellow apex predators of the Everglades, pythons will prey on alligators. These massive constrictors can grow over 20 feet long, making even a fully grown gator look small. Pythons will lie patiently in wait for the perfect ambush opportunity. When a vulnerable hatchling, juvenile, or even full-sized alligator swims by, the snake will strike. They bite down with their numerous sharp teeth and immediately start constricting their victim. The powerful coils quickly suffocate the gator within minutes.
Burmese pythons are invasive species in Florida, wreaking havoc on the sensitive Everglades ecosystem. Their presence is especially disastrous for alligators. Pythons have contributed to up to 99% declines in small mammal populations, threatening alligators by depleting their primary food source. On top of that, pythons also feast on gators directly. The snakes give them competition and make them prey at the same time, hitting young alligators especially hard. Addressing the python invasion is crucial for protecting the Everglades’ remaining gators.
Snapping turtles are another reptilian alligator predator. These cantankerous turtles live in some of the same swampy habitats. Hatchling alligators often fall victim due to their bite-sized proportions. Though snappers are much smaller, they can take advantage of their armour-like shells and powerful beaked jaws to overpower a tiny gator. Even large adult snapping turtles occasionally manage to ambush and kill juvenile alligators if they’re fortunate.
However, the snappers may also end up on the menu themselves. Larger alligators don’t hesitate to eat snapping turtles too. These clashes between armoured titans result in some dramatic fights to the death. But the turtles put up a respectable fight thanks to their sturdy shells and fierce dispositions. Snapping turtles are some of the most bad-tempered turtles around, never giving up even in the jaws of defeat.
Plenty of mammals are bold enough to threaten alligators thanks to their warm-blooded metabolism. Wild boar make for especially dangerous opponents with their massive size and tusks. These beasts can weigh over 400 pounds and use their bulk and tusks to flipped over and ravage nests. They gorge on eggs and destroy hatchlings under the mother alligator’s care. Their tough hide and muscling bulk makes it difficult for alligators to deter them.
Boar may even kill adult alligators on occasion. They are intelligent and cooperative enough to gang up and overwhelm a gator through sheer force. Their tusks can serve as deadly weapons when they pin down an alligator and gut it. Alligators may manage to land some good bites, but the boars’ thick skin protects them. The boar’s risky raids demonstrate their cunning and testament to their boldness. An angry mother gator defending her nest is no match for their brashness.
Graceful herons are a less intimidating alligator predator, but nevertheless swoop in to snatch gator eggs. These long-legged waterbirds stalk through swamps looking for a meal. Female alligators can’t be everywhere at once defending their nests, allowing herons to steal in at opportune moments. Using their spear-like beaks, herons will stab into eggs and feast on the yolk and embryo inside.
Herons may also prey directly on alligator hatchlings. They move with lightning speed, stabbing down to pick up and swallow baby gators whole. Their skillful hunting abilities allow them to grab hatchlings despite the watchful mother nearby. While herons are masterful hunters, alligator parents are fiercely protective. They may catch and eat the thieving birds if they’re spotted raiding the nest. So the herons have to be stealthy and precise when seeking their reptilian snacks.
Related to herons, egrets are another wading bird equipped to feed on juvenile gators. These elegant white waterbirds share many of the herons’ adaptations for an alligator-based diet. Their patient stalking skills allow them to steal in and grab eggs or hatchlings when mama gator’s back is turned.
Egrets may even boldly face down adult alligators when hunting. They’ve been observed unusually harassing large gators. The gators hiss and snap but the agile egrets dance just out of reach, looking for any opening to jab with their beak. This tenuous showdown continues until the egret either steals a bite of gator flesh or gives up. Egrets’ daring and precision around dangerous reptiles demonstrates their consummate hunting abilities.