RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas (KVEO) — You never know what the sun will reveal, and as dawn breaks over this tranquil South Texas lake a large alligator slowly submerges beneath the glassy surface.
Nobody knows just how many of the toothy gators inhabit the Rio Grande Valley, but there is a thriving population at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge east of Rio Hondo and on adjoining ranches.
Lurking in the murky canals and resacas of the Valley, the largest reptile in North America silently prowls in search of prey.
Chomping an occasional fish, turtle, bird or unwary mammal, American alligators ply the interconnected waterways of the lower Valley.
Capable of reaching some 15 feet in length and weighing more than 1,000 pounds, these enormous predators can move surprisingly fast when snatching prey.
In early morning and late afternoon, the imposing reptiles can be seen basking on the banks, and some easily exceed ten feet in length.
On a recent spring morning, several generations of alligators were discovered sprawled out on a Cameron County canal bank.
Some were several feet long and probably a couple of years old, while others were quite small and likely last year’s hatchlings.
When there are little gators about, there is a good chance momma gator is lurking nearby to protect them.
However, mom will not always be around to guard them, and alligators are cannibalistic.
The most recent study suggests that more than five percent of baby gators are devoured by other gators.
Young alligators form social groups called pods and stay close to their mother for the first year or so. However, despite her protection, only five out of an average clutch of 38 are likely to survive to maturity.
For now, these multiple generations of gators seem to be getting along just fine, but there are certainly some very large and intimidating potential cannibals lurking the waterways.