Alligators are fearsome looking creatures and potentially dangerous, but experts say the likelihood of an attack is slim as long as they are
not provoked or you do not trespass on their space.
A L L I G A T O R M I S S I S S I P P I E N S I S
CLASSIFICATION CLASS: REPTILIA ORDER: CROCODILIA
MANY different kinds of alligators existed in the prehistoric past, but only two remain today: the Chinese alligator, which inhabits the
Adults range in color from black or dark gray to dark olive. Alli-gators
have a broad snout that is useful for digging, a short neck
and legs, and a thick tail that is used to propel them through water.
Contrary to popular belief, the tail is not used to attack prey. Two
turret-like eyes stick above the skull so the alligator can see above
the water as it swims. Its leathery skin is toughest on its back,
where small bones called osteoderms create a rough, ridged shield.
Unlike the turtle, these hard, flat bones are not connected to each
other, so the alligator retains greater flexibility.
History and Status
The American alligator became scarce in the early 20th century
due to loss of habitat as well as unregulated hunting for hides
and meat. In 1967, it was one of the first species the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service listed as Endangered. This protection allowed
alligator populations to recover in many areas. Today, it is federally
listed throughout its current range as Threatened
Takes place in May and June. One brood per year. Females may
not breed each year. Average clutch size is 30-45 eggs. Hatchlings
are protected by the mother for up to two years.
American alligators can live 40+ years in the wild and 65+ years
Young alligators eat insects, frogs, small fish and crustaceans.
Adults eat fish, snakes, frogs, turtles, birds and mammals such as
muskrats. They feed primarily at dawn and dusk.
Average Size for Adults
Females generally grow to less than 9 feet while males can grow
to 12-13 feet and weigh 500 pounds or more.
Alligators rarely attack humans, and the attacks that do occur
are most often caused by people who deliberately provoke or
harass them. However, a close encounter with an alligator can be
dangerous. Females actively defend their nest and young, and care
should be taken when in or around areas where alligators are found.
Alligator hunting is allowed by permit only in North Carolina. Only
authorized individuals can remove problem alligators. The posses-sion
of live alligators is also prohibited in North Carolina without
a permit. — NORTH CAROLINA WILDLIFE RESOURCES COMMISSION
lower Yangtze River valley in China, and the American alligator.
WBM june 2020