RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas – Imagine a creature that can top 1,000 pounds and exceed 15 feet in length prowling the Valleys waterways. Richard Moore shows us the Rio Grande Valley has a thriving population of American alligators.
The alligators are awakening in deep South Texas. With warming weather, the largest reptiles in North America can be seen out sunning on the banks of waterways in the Rio Grande Valley.
Nobody knows just how many of the toothy gators prowl the murky waters in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, but there is a thriving population of American alligators at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge and on adjoining ranches.
Alligators and their predecessors have been roaming the earth for some 200 million years, but it is a matter of conjecture as to how long they have been lurking here in South Texas.
An 1898 volume of the U.S National Museum states alligators occur as far south as the Rio Grande, but some believe the Nueces River was historically their southernmost realm, and the Valley’s gator population is a result of escaped or released pets.
The American alligator does not reside south of the border, but Morlet’s crocodiles occur eighty miles south of Brownsville, however no documentation exists of the crocs ever making their way into the Rio Grande.
Whatever their origins, the Valley has harbored a relatively small population of alligators along the coast at least since the 1970’s. Periodic surveys on refuge lands have yielded as many as 110, but their numbers fluctuate depending on drought.
They do occasionally show up in the bay and Arroyo Colorado, and since the lower Valley’s system of resacas and canals are all interconnected, it is best to be on the lookout for the big reptiles.
Alligator season in the Rio Grande Valley opens April 1 and runs thru June 30, but if you want to beat the world record you will have to top an alligator reportedly killed in Alabama in 2014 that was nearly 16 feet long and weighed more than 1,000 pounds.