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American Alligator

a close up of an animal

American Alligator in Louisiana

Did you know that the American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) is the largest reptile in North America? About 300 million years ago, the first reptiles appeared on earth and the American alligator’s ancestors appeared about 200 million years ago. The name alligator actually comes from early Spanish explorers who called them “El legarto” or “Big Lizard.Reptiles are cold blooded animals which means that their body temperatures are regulated by the temperature in their environment. Alligator body rates slow down during the winter months, but in the summer, they can be seen basking in the sun and swimming throughout the Louisiana swamps.

Today, over 1 million American alligators live in the wild in Louisiana with even more on alligator farms. Alligators can be found from central Texas to North Carolina, but Louisiana and Florida have the highest alligator populations with about 2 million. American alligators can be found in bayous, swamps, rivers, lakes, canals, ponds and of course an occasional golf course.

American Alligator Size

American alligators can grow to about 13 feet in length and about 500 plus pounds. The largest American alligator on record was found in Louisiana and was 19 feet, 2 inches. When alligators hatch, they are only about 8 to 9″ in length and grow from 2″ to 12″ per year. The male alligator will grow faster than the female alligator. Did you know that alligators live on average about 70 years, but can get as old as 100 years old?

Young alligators will eat small animals like frogs, small fish, insects and even crawfish. As they get bigger, the food they eat also gets bigger and includes nutria, beaver, birds, snakes, deer, and turtles (just to name a few). Alligators will hunt anytime, but at night they are more active.

Did you know that alligators make nests?

The American alligator breeding season takes place in April and May. For these two months, alligators will fight to see who will win the female (or sow) alligators. The alligators will become very active during these months as they protect their territory and look for females. Did you know that female alligators make nests for their eggs? The female alligator will build her nest in June or July in marsh vegetation piled several feet high and about 10 feet across. She will lay up to 60 eggs that are incubated for about 65 to 70 days. Watch out because the female alligator will vigorously defend her nest from predators. Female alligator mothers will hiss warnings coupled with chomping jaws and thrashing tales to defend her offspring.

If you are interested in experiencing a Louisiana Swamp Tour and learning more about American alligators, check out all of our swamp tours HERE.

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