Breakdown: Why alligators are expanding their territories into the Mid-South

Published: Jul. 23, 2021 at 8:13 AM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Wildlife experts say alligators are naturally expanding their territory into Tennessee from the southern border.

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency confirms an alligator sighting at the Wolf River WMA in Fayette County. This latest sighting is one of several confirmed sightings of alligators in Southwest Tennessee.

According to the TWRA, alligators are opportunistic feeders that prey on fish, turtles, snakes, frogs, and waterfowl. Occasionally they will feed on larger animals such as possums, raccoons, and deer.

While the weather is warming up now, alligators can survive Tennessee winters by going into a hibernation-like dormancy called brumation. They can withstand periods of ice by sticking their snout out of the water before it freezes which allows them to continue breathing.

Brumation is a process in which cold-blooded reptiles, like snakes, lizards, and alligators,...
Brumation is a process in which cold-blooded reptiles, like snakes, lizards, and alligators, slow down their heart rate and metabolism during cold temperature. Brumation is not a true hibernation state, but more of a state of inactivity and sluggishness that lasts until the temperature warms up.(Shallotte River Swamp Park)

The TWRA says alligators are a protected species and catching or shooting one is a violation of the law.

“If you come across one while exploring the outdoors in West TN, leave it alone and enjoy Tennessee’s unique biodiversity,” says the TWRA.

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