American Alligator

Alligator mississippiensis

The American alligator is an opportunistic scavenger and a top predator on the Refuge with virtually no enemies other than humans. Smaller alligators, less than 5 feet long, primarily feed on crustaceans, fish, and insects. Larger alligators feed on mammals, such as nutria and muskrat, birds, fish, reptiles, and crustaceans. In dense populations alligators will feed on other alligators. Alligators continue to grow throughout their lives and the oldest ones can reach up to 15 feet long and over 1,000 pounds.

American alligators have been documented using lures to hunt prey such as birds. This means they are among the first reptiles recorded to use tools. By balancing sticks and branches on their heads, American alligators are able to lure birds looking for suitable nesting material to kill and consume. This strategy is particularly effective during the nesting season, in which birds are more likely to gather appropriate nesting materials.
Throughout the year, but particularly during the breeding season, alligators bellow to declare territory and locate suitable mates with male alligators also using infrasound to attract females. Eggs are laid in a nest of vegetation, sticks, leaves, and mud in a sheltered spot in or near the water. Young are born with yellow bands around their bodies and are protected by their mother for up to one year.

Facts About American Alligator

  • Have 74-80 teeth
  • Keystone species for wetlands