Coastal Alabama Wildlife
It isn't difficult to find coastal Alabama wildlife. The beaches, rivers, back bays, lagoons, lakes and bayous care teeming with wildlife, much of it very easy to find. On a typical walk on the beach you will see great blue herons wading in the water, brown pelicans flying in a V-formation overhead, and seagulls diving into schools of small fish in the water.
Great blue herons are huge birds, growing up to four feet tall with a seven foot wingspan.
Earlier this year I watched a great blue heron fly into a swamp every night. A few weeks later a baby blue heron flew out of the swamp-- the babies are huge. That's the baby on the right.
Brown pelicans are very good fishermen; they are entertaining to watch as they plunge from high in the sky into the water after an unlucky fish.
Seagulls are the most common of the bigger coastal birds. They tend to gather where they can get a free handout. Inland, they frequent shopping center parking lots because fast food restaurants are a good place to get fed. If you are walking on the beach and see flocks of seagulls hovering just above the water surface, you can count on bait fish being underneath the birds and bigger fish feeding on the bait fish. If you have a rod and reel cast your bait under the birds.
Cormorants aren't as common on the beaches, but if you visit the beach often you will eventually see one. They dive from the surface, and they are very good at catching fish. If you spot one under the surface, you might mistake it for a big fish. Eventually it will come up for air and quickly dive again. After the bird gets enough to eat, it will usually spread its wings on the sand to dry them out. We found one doing this last summer and were almost convinced it was dying. But after awhile it just flew off.
If you are lucky you might spot a sea turtle. Loggerheads are the most common of the sea turtles on the Alabama Gulf Coast. They can grow to a weight of 250 lbs. Loggerhead turtles are not shy creatures, and sometimes that puts them at a disadvantage. I have had them swim around me while surf fishing at Little Lagoon Pass.
The only time I see soft-shell turtles is when I catch them while fishing in freshwater. The big ones fight like fish.
Red-eared slider turtles are found everywhere there is fresh or brackish water. They like crossing busy highways-- I always stop and help them cross.
Alligators fascinate people. That is understandable-- these creatures can easily kill a man, and they are the closest relative to dinosaurs left on earth. Alligators are common on the coast, and there are places near Gulf Shores where you can expect to see them. But you might come in contact with them when you least expect it-- on a golf course or in retention pond, just to name a couple places.
Whitetail deer are common in the Gulf Shores area. They wander very close to populated areas near the beaches, not worried that they are going to get shot by a hunter. They are still skittish though, so if you want a picture get one in a hurry. They are very active at night; we have seen three or four at a time on neighborhood lawns.
Coyotes also become more active after dark. These canines are very common on the coast. Drive down a seldom traveled after dark road and you could see coyotes. Stop your car and roll down the windows; you might hear them howling even if you don't see them. In the last few decades coyotes have become a pest. Most people nowadays are cautious about allowing their pets outside alone.
Many tourists are surprised that snakes inhabit the Alabama Gulf Coast. I guess it is all the saltwater that is to blame for that. Most of these people would be really surprised if they new how many live in the Gulf Shores area. All the snake species that call this area home are to numerous to mention, so I'll just name the poisonous ones-- rattlesnakes, water moccasins, copperheads, and even the occasional coral snake. You aren't likely to come across a poisonous snake if you are staying on the beach. Off the beach, it is very possible to come in contact with a snake.
While taking our daily walks when we lived on Canal Road, we would see copperheads all the time, usually when we would veer off the road for one reason or another.
Neither copperheads or rattlesnakes are aggressive. They are actually shy creatures, unlike moccasins. Water moccasins will not come after you, but they will stand their ground. Any area on or near fresh or brackish water is where you need to be on the lookout for moccasins. If you really want to see some, check out rivers and ponds just before dark. You can separate the moccasins from the water snakes by how much of the body is above the water. Water moccasins swim on top of the water.
Other coastal Alabama wildlife include raccoons, opossums, armadillos, foxes, beavers, bobcats, and, though few people ever see them black bears, manatees, and the occasional whale shark.
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