American Alligator

Alligator mississpiensis

Reptiles Alive Name: Dean Martin and B.A. which stands for Bad Attitude, which he has.young-golf-course-alligator-300x199

Hissstory: We received Dean Martin in June of 2003.  He was a wedding “gift” that did not work out!  Dean’s original owner had purchased a baby gator for his new bride and she decided a pet alligator was not what she was looking for.  Not only do alligators bite – they are against the law to own as pets.

B.A. came to live at Reptiles Alive in August of 2004.  He was also an illegal pet that became unwanted.

RA Diet: Our young alligators eat roaches, crickets, fish, and their favorite: dead, defrosted rodents.  Yum-O!

Natural Diet: Alligators are opportunistic feeders; they will eat almost any animal that is nearby including fish, insects, mammals, birds, amphibians, and reptiles.  Alligators are one of the only animals with jaws strong enough to crush a turtle shell – so they love to eat turtles.

Range: American Alligators live in the southeastern United States from eastern North Carolina south through Florida and west to eastern Texas.

Habitat: Almost any place there is freshwater in the south, you could find a gator.  They live in lakes, rivers, ponds, ditches, golf course water hazards, and sometimes, they try to move in to back yard swimming pools!

Size: Female alligators can grow 8-9 feet while males grow to an average 10-12 feet.

Lifespan: Alligators can live more than 40 years.

Reproduction: Female alligators build a nest out of grass and leaves that measures four feet high by about six feet in diameter.  As the vegetation decomposes, the nest heats up – like a compost pile.  The mama gator then lays up to around 60 eggs.  Unlike other reptiles, mother alligators guard their nest against attacking predators like foxes, raccoons, or even humans.  When the eggs hatch, the baby alligators cry for their mom to come and get them.  The mama gator carries her little babies inside her toothy jaws carefully to the water and will continue to protect them for up to a year.

Conservation: Success story! Populations of alligators were once nearly hunted to extinction for food and leather goods. They were even used as a food source during the Civil War. It is now illegal to hunt, harass, collect, or even feed wild alligators.  Alligator products sold today are from captive farmed populations.

Cool Facts: Alligators have the most powerful jaws in the animal kingdom. Their jaws have a crushing power in excess of 3,000 pounds per square inch! Alligators cannot chew, however, so when they eat large prey, they “death roll” in the water to break food up into more manageable portions.

Alligators do not naturally attack humans – they are usually afraid of us. Sometimes, people illegally feed alligators which can cause the gator to lose their fear of humans and look to them for food.  Feeding wild animals can create a dangerous situation for humans and animals – that is why it is against the law.