Why Do Alligators Fight Each Other? (Answered By Vet Tech)

Why Do Alligators Fight Each Other

Alligators are fearsome reptiles known for their reputation as aggressive predators. These large reptiles are at the top of the food chain in almost every way. They’re strong and territorial and can take down prey much larger than themselves. Not many animals can threaten or harm alligators. Really, the only animal that ever fights an alligator is another alligator.

So, why do alligators fight each other?

Even though it might seem a little strange, it’s natural for alligators to fight each other. Conflicts over territory, food, and breeding are common issues that might cause fights to break out between alligators. Alligator fights are violent and can often leave the losers maimed or even dead.

In this article, we’ll talk about what motivates alligators to fight others of their own kind. We’ll also discuss whether or not alligators attack people and what times of the year they’re most dangerous.

Will Alligators Attack Other Alligators?

Alligators will attack other alligators.

In the wild, it’s a pretty common occurrence for animals of the same species to fight.  If you think about it, even we humans fight each other from time to time.  Alligators are aggressive animals that live at the top of the food chain.  They don’t really need to fear predators and can spend their free time fighting is necessary.

Usually, male alligators are the instigators in alligator fights.  But, in some cases, female alligators might attack other females or juveniles.  We’ll talk about why these fights break out now.

Why Do Alligators Fight Each Other?

There are plenty of explanations for why alligators fight each other.  In the wild, animals do anything that they need to to survive.  Often, fights have something to do with the survival of the individual animal but can sometimes benefit the population as a whole.

Here are the three main reasons why alligators fight each other.

Reason 1: They’re Defending Territory

There are two types of alligators found in the wild today, American alligators and Chinese alligators.  While these alligators do have some minor differences, both species are incredibly territorial.

Male alligators are often described as solitary and territorial.  Usually, if you find a group of alligators congregated in one place, they’re either females or juvenile males that aren’t very large yet.  The reason for this is that two large males can’t coexist too close to one another.  If they do, a fight inevitably breaks out.

Territories are incredibly important to male alligators.  To protect their territories, male alligators will often bellow and roar to warn other males that they’re present.  If a male enters their territory, they’ll usually attack them.  Eventually, the stronger male will come out on top and claim the territory.

Reason 2: They’re Hungry

Another reason why alligators might attack each other is that they’re hungry.

As gruesome as it sounds, alligators do in fact eat other alligators.  They’re considered cannibals and will consume members of their own species to survive.  Hunger is a big motivating factor for fights and cannibalism.

Cannibalism occurs between all members of the alligator species. Males might eat other competing males or juveniles. Females are known to commit infanticide and eat the weakest babies from their own nests.

Juveniles are often fought and consumed in times of hunger. While this might seem a little counterintuitive, this actually helps the species survive better as a whole.  Not only do the surrounding gators get a meal but there are also fewer mouths to feed in the area.

Fights break out more often when gators are hungry and can lead to cannibalism.

Reason 3: It’s Breeding Season

Breeding season is the last big factor that plays into alligator fights.

Alligator breeding season is long. Courtship starts in early April and mating occurs in May and June.  After mating females lay eggs that take about 2 months to hatch.  Babies emerge sometime in August or September. During this time, females guard their flimsy nests made of sticks and mud with their lives.

From April to September tensions are high.  Males will fight males for the right to the territory and access to the females in the area.  Females might fight other females as part of the courtship ritual and will eventually fight each other to protect their nests.

However, not all alligator courtship is violent.  Some breeding rituals involve special songs and dances between suitors that never escalate to a real fight.

How Do Alligators Fight?

When alligators do fight, it’s violent.

Alligators have a variety of weapons to use during an attack. Their scales are sharp and rough and can be difficult to puncture. Alligators have plenty of sharp teeth meant for capturing and shredding flesh. These reptiule don’t have any flat molars so once something is in their mouth, it’s not escaping.  Alligators will often mite and claw at one another during a fight.

One of the most infamous moves alligators use during a fight is called the death roll. Gators use the death roll to stun, dismember, and kill prey. Basically, the alligator grabs onto the prey item with its powerful jaws. Then, the alligator will spin its body rapidly over and over again by rolling on the ground or in the water. The end result of this is at best, the loss of a limb, and at worst, death.

Alligator fights usually end with one of the gators seriously scratched up or missing an appendage or tail.  Sometimes, alligators fight to the death and even cannibalize each other.

Do Alligators Attack People?

Alligators fight many animals outside of their species. Although humans aren’t their typical choice of prey, alligators will attack people.

Expert’s recommendation when faced when an alligator attack is just to avoid one in the first place. CNN recommends always looking in the water before jumping in and keeping an eye on kids when you know there are alligators in the area.  For tips on spotting an alligator in a body of water, read our article about it here.

If you are unfortunate enough to encounter an aggressive alligator in the wild, never run away.  Make yourself big and scary looking.  And if you’re ever bitten, you should definitely fight back.  Try hitting g the alligator or poking its eyes if you have a chance.

Ideally, you’ll never be in this horrible situation.

What Time Of The Year Are Alligators Most Aggressive?

We mentioned earlier that alligator mating season is basically spring and summer, so alligators will definitely be more active then.  But, there are a few other factors that influence alligator activity.

Alligators are most active in temperatures between 82F and 92F.  These temperatures are ideal for ectotherms to function.  Temperatures below or above will usually cause gators to become less active or retreat to the comfort of a gator hole.

For American alligators, the wet season produces much more activity than the dry season.  The wet, warm, rainy summer months are ideal for gators that traverse large bodies of water.  Plus, temperatures are usually warmer during the wet season.

Even though alligators have excellent night vision and specialized eyelids, they’re not nocturnal.  Actually, alligators are usually most active at dusk and dawn and tend to sleep for much of the rest of the day.

So, if you’re trying to avoid attacking alligators, it’s safe to say cold, dry, days are your best bet.

Final Thoughts

Alligators are aggressive for a reason.  They’re at the top of the food chain and they’re built to be excellent predators.  Alligators hunt prey, but will also fight and even hunt each other. Fights can often escalate into serious brawls that may leave adult gators missing limbs, tails, or even dead.

When alligators do attack other gators, it usually has to do with hunger, territories, or the breeding season.  During these times, alligators are more likely to attack almost anything, including people.  Even though it’s brutal, cannibalism is a common after-effect of an alligator fight.  When two alligators fight each other, it’s best to stay as far away as possible!