The Alligators of Texas

The American alligator is found only in the US, and is widespread in Texas. It is found at several inland localities, and along the coast. And, it turns out that the preferred locations for many of the important activities in the day to day live of the American alligator overlap a great deal with humans.

Louise Hayes, biologist, and photographer Philippe Henry have produced, with TAMU Press, Alligators of Texas, a highly accessible, well written, and richly illustrated monograph on these beasts.

If you are into Alligators and their relatives, regardless of where you live, this book may be an important addition to your collection. If you live in Texas in any of the Alligator areas (near larger rivers, the coast, etc) then you need this book along side your bird guides and plant ID pocket volumes. Not that you need to know how to identify an Alligator, but rather, to learn all about them.

A note on where the alligators are. I originally posed this review here, during a brief blackout period on this blog, and there I made mention of the Rio Grande. This prompted a faithful reader to ask how Alligators could be in the Rio Grande but not in Mexico. This question made sense, and, by the way, made me think of what was going to happen to the Alligators when the Great Wall of Trump was built down the middle of the Rio Grande Rive. (But I digress.)

Anyway, I contacted Louise Hayes, the book’s author, for clarification.

Here’s the bottom line. The Alligator’s current natural range does not extend into Mexico. There is a distribution map in the book that marks the counties in which the Alligators live, by county, and many counties that border on the Rio Grande have Alligators, so it looks like their range goes right up to the river, but it doesn’t. Dr. Hayes notes that she would like to have a second range map in the book that makes it more clear, possibly in the second edition.

Note that there are Alligators outside that range, including in the Rio Grande, now and then, but these are unusual occurrences and, as noted in Dr. Hayes’ email to me, often likely to be the result of human release.

Some of you have read my story (not currently available on line) about the Crocodiles in Lake Edward and the Semliki River, on the Congo-Uganda border. Crocs had been wiped out in the basin several thousand years ago due to a volcano, and because the Upper Semliki is separated from the rest of the Nile drainage by strong rapids, Crocodiles has not migrated back in. But during the 1980s, Crocs appeared there, and no one is sure if they were reintroduced by someone (there were rumors) or if they just happen to have made it. In just a ver few years, what were first seen as crocs running about 50 cm long had become 2 meter long. A large lake, plenty of fish, no competitors.

Anyway, this is a great looking book, if you are into Alligators, get one, if you have a nature lover in Texas on your holiday shopping list, then you are done!

LOUISE HAYES has been studying American alligators in Texas since 1985 at sites such as Brazos Bend State Park and the J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area. PHILIPPE HENRY is a professional wildlife photographer based in St. Mathieu du Parc. His photographs have been published worldwide.

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