A member of the crocodile family, alligators are living fossils that can be traced back 230 million years.
First listed as an endangered species in 1967, the American alligator was removed from the endangered species list in 1987 after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service pronounced a complete recovery of the species. However, to prevent trafficking of look-alike reptiles the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service classify the alligator as “threatened due to similarity of appearance” since it resembles the American crocodile.
Once on the brink of extinction, well over a million alligators can be found today in Florida, Louisiana, Texas, and Georgia.
Once hunted for their hides, alligators today are threatened mainly by habitat loss and encounters with people.
Alligators can live 35 to 50 years in the wild. In captivity, 60 to 80 years.
The American alligator is the largest reptile in North America. The alligator can be distinguished from the American crocodile by its short, rounded snout and black color.
Adult alligators can reach up to 18 feet in length, although the average is 13 feet. An alligator's tail accounts for half of length. Male alligators, or bulls, are generally larger than females. On average, they weigh from 450 to 600 pounds.
Alligators can be found in rivers, swamps, bogs, lakes, ponds, creeks, canals, and bayous. Alligators can tolerate some salt water and have been spotted in marshes as well.
Widespread in Florida, alligators also live in Southern Texas, Louisiana, and parts of North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama.
Alligators eat just about anything, including lizards, fish, snakes, turtles, small mammals, birds, crustaceans, and even small alligators. They hunt for prey underwater and often swallow their meal whole.
Females build their nests in marshy areas and along shorelines. The temperature of the nest determines the sex of the hatchlings. The mother stays close to her nest to protect it. When the young hatch, they peep and the mother helps the hatchlings out of the nest and carries them in her mouth to the water.
The American alligator can be found in Biscayne National Park, FL; Everglades National Park, FL; Big Cypress National Preserve, FL; Canaveral National Seashore, FL; Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve, FL; and Cumberland Island National Seashore, GA.