American Alligator


Lifespan: 35 to 50 years

Wild Diet: Fish, turtles, birds, frogs and mammals

Weight: Exceptionally large males can reach a weight of nearly 1,000 pounds

Habitat: Slow-moving freshwater rivers, as well as swamps, marshes and lakes, from North Carolina to the Rio Grande in Texas

IUCN Status: Least Concern

Characteristics: There are two species of alligator: American and Chinese. American alligators are the larger of the two species of alligator. Alligators can be distinguished from crocodiles by a wide "U-shaped" snout and would be found in freshwater, whereas crocodiles have a more "V-shaped" snout and would be seen in brackish or saltwater. Also, look for the large 4th tooth in the lower jaw. If you can see the tooth when the mouth is closed, it's a croc. If not, it's a gator.

Behavior: Alligators are apex predators. A hungry gator will eat carrion, pets and, rarely, humans. Alligators don't move around when the weather is cold.

Conservation: We almost lost American alligators forever in 1967. Populations were so low that scientists thought they might never recover. The Endangered Species Act of 1973 changed the fate of this species. This Act prohibited the hunting of American alligators and provided protection for their habitat. Today, the species has fully recovered and has been removed from the endangered species list. This is worth celebrating!