The American Alligator is millions of years old and is the largest reptile native to the Southeastern United States. It is one of two living species in the genus Alligator and is larger than the Chinese alligator.
Adult males measure 11-15 feet and can weigh up to 999 pounds; females measure 8.5-10 feet long. They can live anywhere from 30-75 years in the wild. Once an alligator reaches adulthood its main enemy is man who will harvest them for skins and meat.
An alligator’s habitat is marshes and cypress swamps from Texas to Southeastern and coastal Virginia. The alligator differs from the crocodile in that its snout is rounder, it is less tolerant of saltwater and it can tolerate a cooler climate. Its diet consists of fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. Alligators are an important part of the ecosystem because they create alligator holes which provide wet and dry habitat for other organisms. Alligators lay eggs; and the young are protected by the mother for up to one year.
Conservation efforts have allowed the number of alligators to increase; and they were removed from endangered status in 1987. They are the official state reptile of Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi.
During the times that we visited Florida, we have always been able to spot alligators in the wild. On our last trip we were fortunate enough to see a mother and her babies up close from a boardwalk trail into the swamp. The babies were on a little island under a tree while the mother watched, barely visible, from the water!
Photo Credit: Free Images
Have you ever seen an alligator in the wild or in the zoo?