Why did alligator abruptly leave home in Georgia swamp? It was on the run, experts say

Coastal Ecology Lab photo

Alligators are apex predators in Georgia’s swamps, so biologists couldn’t help but watch in amazement as an 8-foot gator known as BIP appeared to be trying to outrun something in the 353,981-acre Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.

Male alligators are known to wander during mating season, but this was different, according to the University of Georgia’s Coastal Ecology Lab.

BIP didn’t appear to be searching for something. He was escaping, the tracking data showed.

“Since he was tagged back in August of 2022, BIP had never ventured more than (half) a mile from where he was captured,” the lab wrote June 5 on Facebook.

“This changed recently, however, as he abruptly traveled 3 miles from his usual territory! ... His GPS locations show an obvious start and stop to them rather than the constant wandering that can be seen in a male looking for a mate.”

So what changed?

It’s suspected BIP “was forced out of his previous territory by a larger male,” the lab said.

Details of the larger carnivore were not provided, but male alligators can reach 16 feet in length in Georgia — double the size of BIP.

Males are also known to be more aggressive during mating season, and “cannibalism is not at all uncommon,” according to a Livescience.com report.

“Large alligators are on the move trying to find a mate, and small alligators are moving to try and stay away from the big ones,” the lab reported.

“This can result in alligators ending up in unusual places such as a garage, someone’s front porch, or ... a parking lot.”

What remains unknown is whether BIP will be able to go home again.

“We will be very interested to see if he returns to his old territory once mating season concludes or if he makes the new area his permanent home,” the lab said.

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