Easily spotted in the wetlands of Florida and the southeastern United States, the American alligator is a conservation success story – recovering from excessive hunting during the mid-1900s. Active year-round, their breeding season starts in May with a complex courtship ritual involving bubble-blowing, back-rubbing and bellowing. Between late June and mid-July, the female lays 20-60 eggs in a large nest of rotting vegetation. After around 65 days, she carries the striped hatchlings to the water and will often defend them for several months. The young alligators start by feeding on aquatic invertebrates and tiny fish, but quickly learn to be opportunistic hunters. By the time they reach adulthood, everything from turtles, frogs and snakes to small mammals and other alligators will be on the menu.
Did you know... male alligators 'bellow' to females at the start of the breeding season in May.
RANGE & HABITAT
American alligators prefer freshwater lakes, wetlands and slow-moving rivers – but can also be found in brackish water habitats. Their range extends along the Atlantic and Gulf seaboards, from southeast Oklahoma to Florida and North Carolina.
Hunted to the brink of extinction during the 1950s and 60s, a hunting ban and habitat conservation helped the American alligator to bounce back and it is now listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
American alligators are doing well, but they face pressure from habitat loss, pollution and human-wildlife conflict. Gators are federally protected by the Endangered Species Act due to their similarity to the much rarer American crocodile.