Alligators Everywhere! ... Or Are They?


Alligators are fascinating creatures. They have been on earth for almost 200 million years, meaning they are practically a living dinosaur! They build nests on the ground to lay their eggs, and the temperature inside determines whether the young will be male or female. They are related to crocodiles and caimans, but surprisingly there are only 2 species of alligator in the entire world today: the American alligator and the Chinese alligator.


The Chinese alligator is a critically endangered species and is only found in the lower Yangtze River region, requiring slow-moving freshwater habitats to survive. Chinese alligators are much smaller than their American counterpart, growing up to 5 ft. long and 85 lbs. There are currently fewer than 150 individuals left in the wild, and there are many conservation efforts in place to protect them.


Now living in Florida, the idea of alligators being endangered seems crazy, because they are EVERYWHERE here. If you are around water, there is a good chance that you are near an alligator or five. However, you may be surprised to learn that it wasn’t too long ago that the American alligator was in a similar situation to the Chinese species.

 Gator on log

Back in the 1960’s, the American alligator was hunted almost to extinction, which put them on the Endangered Species List. Due to the hard work of conservationists, a lot of habitat preservation, and both state and federal protection for the alligator, their population has grown to around 5 million across the southeastern U.S. There is an estimated 1.25 million gators in Florida alone!


When we think of these large, prehistoric-looking animals, we tend to list them as a top predator. While this is true, they actually provide food for many other species as well. Raccoons, bobcats, rodents, and even some birds will eat alligator eggs when it’s possible to get ahold of them. Mother gators will stick around their nest as their eggs incubate to protect them from predators, so it can be a bit risky for these animals but is apparently worth it for the tasty treat.

 Baby gator

Once they make it to adulthood, the American alligator is the largest species of reptile in North America, reaching up to 15 ft. and 1,000 lbs for old males. Gators never stop growing, so they can potential reach even larger sizes if able to survive in their old age.

How incredible is it that we get to live alongside these amazing, dinosaur-like creatures!?