American Alligator

Alligator mississippiensis

Florida's Fierce & Famous

The American alligator was once almost hunted to extinction. In 1967, the alligator was placed on the Endangered Species list due to poaching and habitat loss, but has since recovered. The alligator is the state reptile of Florida.

About the Species

The American alligator is a member of the Crocodilian family, which includes alligators, crocodiles, caimans, and gavials.

There are only two species of alligators, the American and the Chinese. The American alligator can tolerate colder temperatures than the other crocodilians, which is why it has a more northern range. Alligators dig out "gator holes" for dens. These holes provide an important resource for the environment, as they may be the only source of water during a drought. When alligators are born, they are only about eight inches long and susceptible to predators. The babies will stay with their mother for up to two years for protection, and this maternal care is unusual for reptiles.

Words From the Experts


Even though they are ferocious, mother alligators are amazing moms! They stand guard over their nest of eggs, waiting to hear their young make peeping noises as they come out of the shell. Once out, the mother then carries her young in her mouth to the water.


Did You Know?

There are only two species of alligator in the world, the American alligator and the Chinese alligator.



Southeastern United States


Freshwater lakes, swamps, bayous, and marshes


Average length for females is about 8 feet, and for males about 11 feet. Some males can reach up to 14 feet long, and weigh 1,000 pounds


Fish, turtles, mammals, and birds


Young alligators are a food source for raccoons, birds, bobcats.

Natural Defenses

Size, strong bite, strong tail, good swimmers, camouflage


Females create a nest mound and lay 20-50 eggs. The eggs incubate for approximately 10 weeks.


Least Concern

Life Expectancy

Up to 50 years

  • Saving Animals From Extinction
  • Culture Builds Florida
  • Florida Association of Zoos and Aquariums