The male American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) is the largest reptile in North America and can grow to 16 feet or longer, while the female is usually 8 to 9 feet in length. Although it may appear to be slow and clumsy, an alligator can move with lightning speed when it wants to. A large adult can weigh anywhere between 800 - 1000 lbs (approx. 1/2 ton).

The name alligator actually comes from the Spanish word for lizard (el lagarto) because this is how the early Spanish explorers and settlers in Florida referred to the alligator.

Alligator Habitat

American alligators are mostly found in Florida and Louisiana, with over a million alligators in each state, Louisiana having more than Florida. Alligators are also located in the southern parts of Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, coastal South and North Carolina, Eastern Texas, the southeast corner of Oklahoma and the southern tip of Arkansas.

American alligators live in freshwater environments, such as ponds, marshes, wetlands, rivers, lakes, and swamps, as well as brackish environments. Southern Florida is the only place where both alligators and crocodiles live side by side.

Alligator Breeding Habits

Alligators perform a near deafening bellows in the mating ritual. On completion, the male alligator takes no part in raising its young. However, baby alligators need no help. From birth they hunt crayfish, insects, snakes, and frogs.

Alligator Behavior

When the dry winter season approaches, the alligator creates a gator hole. This oasis in an increasingly drying environment attracts animals from near and far. Turtles and snails appear, while deer come to drink from this watering hole. Raccoons, river otters, herons, egrets, ibis, storks, and spoonbills feast on the axbundant supply of fish that have no choice but to take their chances here in the shallow holes, in close proximity to natural predators.

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