art&culture magazine spring/summer 2016 v10i3

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Fred and Wilma on view at the Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society

Gator Gazing in Palm Beach County The best time for viewing alligators is during spring and fall when temperatures are mild. This is when they’re most likely to spend the day sunning themselves on mud flats or along the banks of impoundments. During the hottest part of the summer, alligators are a little less conspicuous, spending much of their time floating in canals, waterways and the occasional swimming pool.

© 2016 John J. Lopinot

Wilma, who two years ago, after 14 barren years, surprised the zoo with nine babies. Maple admires these prehistoric predators. “They’re big, strong and intelligent,” she says. “Our gators have great memory retention. They learn fast where food comes from.” That’s why you should never feed alligators, she says. (Aside from the fact that it is a violation of state and federal law to feed or harass alligators in any way.) “Once gators learn that people have food, they lose their fear. That’s when gators end up where they’re not welcome. Treat gators with respect,” she cautions. “Mating season is April to May, and they nest in July and August. Gators are not aggressive but they’ll protect their offspring. Do not take selfies with alligators in the wild.” But you can take gator selfies at the zoo, where Alligator Alley – the first in a series of redesigned and reimagined habitats featuring Florida wildlife – provides excellent viewing opportunities. “You can get really close to our gators,” Maple says. “See their movements and their nostrils as they hide in the water.”

Green Cay Nature Center and Wetlands, Boynton Beach With one and a half miles of elevated boardwalk, the county’s newest nature center has 100 acres of wetlands and a million opportunities for shooting in the wild – with your camera. Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society, West Palm Beach The zoo has Mardi, one of eleven rare white gators in the world, Fred and Wilma, and other gators. You can experience the power of a hungry alligator during the American Alligator Talk & Feeding at noon every day. Wakodahatchee Wetlands, Delray Beach Hard to believe, but these stunning wetlands treat and reclaim waste water for the Palm Beach County Water Utilities Department. The park has attracted an abundant variety of wildlife, including turtles, frogs, birds and, of course, alligators. You won’t even get your feet wet when you visit; a three-quarter-mile boardwalk winds through three of the wetlands’ ponds. Busch Wildlife Sanctuary, Jupiter Gator and croc feedings are offered at 4 p.m. Mondays. The experts at the sanctuary will tell you that male gators are hotter than females. The temperature of the nest determines the sex of the alligator baby. If the temp is between 90 and 93 degrees, the babies will be males; if the temp is between 87 and 89, they will be female. The Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, Boynton Beach. Loxahatchee is almost 144,000 acres of northern Everglades and cypress swamp, and yes, it is home to quite a few gators. For more suggestions, or for assistance arranging guided tours, photography trips, airboat rides or kayak and canoe rentals, contact Palm Beach County’s Cultural Concierge at