Crocodiles and Alligators

American Alligator American Alligator
Alligator mississippiensis


6'-19'2" (1.8-5.84 m). Largest reptile in North America. Distinguished from American Crocodile by broad and rounded snout. Generally black with yellowish or cream crossbands that become less apparent with age. Large 4th tooth on bottom jaw fits into a socket in upper jaw, is not visible when mouth is closed. No curved bony ridge in front of eyes, as seen in Spectacled Caiman.


Alligators are carnivores that feed on fish and other large water animals and also stalk prey onshore near water. All alligators should be considered dangerous, even those basking in the sun. They can attack with amazing suddenness and have very sharp, grasping teeth and powerfully strong jaws.


During the breeding season adults produce a throaty, bellowing roar heard over considerable distance. Young give a high-pitched call: y-eonk, y-eonk, y-eonk.


Mates April to May after emerging from hibernation. In June, female builds a mound-shaped nest about 5-7' (1.5-2.1 m) in diameter and 1 1/2-3' (46-91 cm) high, of mud, leaves, and rotting organic material; deposits about 25-60 hard-shelled eggs, 3" (76 mm) long, in cavity scooped from remains near nest. The calling of hatching young prompts the female to scratch open the nest to free them. Hatchlings are 9-10" (22.8-25.4 cm) long and remain with the female for 1-3 years.

American Alligator


Fresh and brackish marshes, ponds, lakes, rivers, swamps, bayous, and big spring runs.

American Alligator


The indigenous range of A. mississippiensis is from coastal North Carolina south to southern Florida and the Keys, and westward through the Deep South to central Texas and extreme southeastern Oklahoma. American alligators may eventually be found in Mexico in localities adjacent to the Texas border.


Alligators are important to the ecology of their habitat. During droughts they dig deep holes, or "dens," which provide water for the wildlife community. They hibernate in dens during the winter. Diet consists of rough fishes, small mammals, birds, turtles, snakes, frogs, and invertebrates. Alligators have been relentlessly hunted for their hides and were much reduced in numbers. Under state and federal protection, their numbers have increased significantly and hunting seasons are allowed in several states. Louisiana is one state with a legal hunting season and large alligators are harvested as shown in the photo on the right (14 ft. gator) where my father Van W. Walker, shown with the gator, helped my Uncle Billy Whatley to keep the population in check.

American Alligator