Fact Sheet
American Alligator
alligator, © Dolores Rose

Basic Facts About American Alligators

The American alligator, Alligator mississippiensi, is the largest reptile in North America. It has a large, dark (usually black), slightly rounded body and thick limbs.

Unlike the crocodile, the alligator has a broad head. The alligator uses its powerful tail to propel itself through water. The tail accounts for half the alligator's length. While alligators move very quickly in water, they are generally slow-moving on land. They can, however, move quickly for short distances.

Diet

American alligators mainly eat fish, turtles, various mammals, birds and other reptiles.

Population

Did You Know?

Although alligators have no vocal cords, males bellow loudly to attract mates and warn off other males by sucking air into their lungs and blowing it out in intermittent, deep-toned roars.

An estimated 5 million American alligators are spread out across the southeastern United States. Roughly 1.25 million alligators live in the state of Florida.

Range

American alligators occur in Florida, southern Texas, Louisiana and parts of North and South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama. The majority of American alligators inhabit Florida and Louisiana. However, the alligator’s range appears to have been increasing northward in the last few years. The United States is the only nation on earth where both alligators and crocodiles live together.

Behavior

Alligators live in freshwater environments, such as ponds, marshes, wetlands, rivers, and swamps, as well as brackish environments.

Did You Know?

In 1987, Florida declared the alligator their official state reptile!

Large male alligators are solitary, territorial animals. The largest males and females will defend prime territory. Smaller alligators can often be found in large numbers in close proximity to each other, because smaller alligators have a higher tolerance of other alligators within a similar size class.

During breeding season, the female builds a nest of vegetation, sticks, leaves, and mud in a sheltered spot in or near the water.

Reproduction

Mating Season Mid-April through May
Gestation 60-65 day egg incubation
Clutch size 20-50 eggs
Eggs generally hatch in mid-August. Sex is fully determined at the time of hatching and irreversible thereafter, and depends on the temperature of egg incubation, with temperatures of 86°F producing females, and 93°F yielding only males.

More on American Alligator: Threats to American Alligators »

You may also be interested in:

Florida Panther,  © SuperStock
Where We Work
From the Keys and Everglades to the Panhandle’s white sand beaches, Florida is home to some of the country’s most special places and wildlife, but also some of the most imperiled. Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to keeping the Sunshine State a wild and enchanting place.