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Alligator Facts

STATUS
The American alligator is federally classified as “threatened due to similarity of appearance” to other endangered and threatened crocodilians. This provides federal protection for alligators but allows state-approved management and control programs. The alligator is listed by the State of Florida as a Species of Special Concern.   Alligators can be legally taken only by individuals with proper licenses and permits.


 

FOOD HABITS

Alligators are opportunistic feeders. Their diets include prey species that are abundant and easily accessible.  This includes rough fish, snakes, turtles, amphibians, apple snails, small mammals, and birds.


 

SIZE

Female alligators rarely exceed 9 feet in length, but males can grow much larger. The Florida state record for length is a 14 foot 5/8 inch male from Lake Monroe in Seminole County. The Florida record for weight is a 1,043 pound (13 feet 10 1/2 inches long) male from Orange Lake in Alachua County.  FWC biologists have published an article on the maximum size of the alligator.


 

REPRODUCTION

Nearly all alligators become sexually mature by the time they reach approximately 7 feet in length although females can reach maturity at 6 feet. A female may require 10-15 years and a male 8-12 years to reach that length. Courtship begins in early April, and mating occurs in May or June. Females build a mound nest of soil, vegetation, or debris and deposit an average of 32 to 46 eggs in late June or early July. Incubation requires approximately 60-65 days, and hatching occurs in late August or early September.


 

MORTALITY

Eggs: Alligator eggs are susceptible to drowning, being crushed by the female, predation, and other less common calamities. Raccoons are the primary predator, although hogs, otters, and bears have been reported to depredate nests.

Juveniles: Small alligators are eaten by a variety of predators including raccoons, otters, wading birds, and fish; however, larger alligators may be their most significant predator.

Adults: Cannibalism, intraspecific fighting, and hunting by humans are probably the most significant mortality factors.

Diseases and Parasites: Very little information is available in the scientific literature on wild alligator diseases and parasites. They are not believed to be a significant problem for wild alligators.


 

DISTRIBUTION

Alligators occur from southeast Oklahoma and east Texas on the western side of their range to North Carolina and Florida in the east.  They prefer fresh water lakes and slow-moving rivers and their associated wetlands, but they also can be found in brackish water habitats.


 

EVOLUTION

The most current information indicates that crocodilians (which includes alligators) evolved from a common ancestor with dinosaurs that fore-dates the common ancestor that they share with other reptiles.  So, even though alligators are classified as reptiles along with lizards, snakes, and turtles, they are actually more closely related to birds, whose ancestors were dinosaurs!


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