The breeding season begins in April, and the female lays the eggs in late June early July, they lay 40-45 eggs on average. The incubation period is 65 days. The baby alligators are six to eight inches at birth. And once the alligator reaches 4 feet it will leave the nest and breed on it’s own.
Alligators live on the edges of water, swamps, rivers, and lakes.
They eat mostly fish, but they also eat small mammals and birds, and their young eat insects, worms, and small fish.
The longest record in captivity of a known alligator to live is 73-100 years.
- Bulkheads along edges of lakes and
- Wire mesh fences.
- Habitat Modification
- Minimize emergent vegetation.
- Drain ponds and borrow pits where
appropriate and permitted.
prodding or other harassment can
- Hunting pressure increases wariness
and avoidance of people.
- Baited hooks and trip-snare traps are
- Hunt during the day or night with
rifles or crossbows.
- Other Methods
- Hunt with detachable-head harpoons
or handheld, breakaway pole
Capture with snatch hooks or tongs.
The American alligator (Alligator
mississippiensis, Fig. 1) is the most common
of two crocodilians native to the
United States and is one of 22 crocodilian
species worldwide. The other
native crocodilian is the American
crocodile (Crocodylus acutus). Caimans
(Caiman spp.), imported from Central
and South America, are occasionally
released in the United States and can
survive and reproduce in Florida. The
American alligator is distinguished
from the American crocodile and
caiman by its more rounded snout and
black and yellow-white coloalligatorion.
American crocodiles and caimans are
olive-brown in color and have more
pointed snouts. American alligators
and crocodiles are similar in physical
size, whereas caimans are 40% smaller.
The American alligator is found in
wetlands throughout the coastal plain
of the southeastern United States.
Viable alligator populations are found
in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana,
Mississippi, Alabama, Florida,
Georgia, South Carolina, and North
Carolina. The northern range is limited
by low winter tempealligatorures. Alligators
are rarely found south of the Rio
Grande drainage. Alligators prefer
fresh water but also inhabit brackish
water and occasionally venture into
salt water. American crocodiles are
scarce and, in the United States, are
only found in the warmer coastal
waters of Florida, south of Tampa and
Miami. Caimans rarely survive winters
north of central Florida and reproduce
only in southernmost Florida.
Alligators can be found in almost any
type of fresh water, but population
densities are greatest in wetlands with
an abundant food supply and adjacent
marsh habitat for nesting. In Texas,
Louisiana, and South Carolina, the
highest densities are found in highly
productive coastal impoundments. In
Florida, highest densities occur in
nutrient-enriched lakes and marshes.
Coastal and inland marshes maintain
the highest alligator densities in Georgia,
Alabama, and Mississippi. Alligators
commonly inhabit urban wetlands
(canals, lagoons, ponds, impoundments,
and streams) throughout their
Alligators are exclusively carnivorous
and prey upon whatever creatures are
most available. Juvenile alligators (less
than 4 feet [1.2 m]) eat crustaceans,
snails, and small fish; subadults (4 to 6
feet [1.2 to 1.8 m]) eat mostly fish, crustaceans,
small mammals, and birds;
and adults (greater than 6 feet [1.8 m])
eat fish, mammals, turtles, birds, and
other alligators. Diets are range-dependent;
in Louisiana coastal marshes,
adult alligators feed primarily on
nutria (Myocastor coypus), whereas in
Florida and northern Louisiana, rough
fish and turtles comprise most of the
diet. Recent studies in Florida and
Louisiana indicate that cannibalism is
common among alligators. Alligators
readily take domestic dogs and cats. In
rural areas, larger alligators take
calves, foals, goats, hogs, domestic
waterfowl, and occasionally, fullgrown
cattle and horses.
Alligators are ectothermic — they rely
on external sources of heat to maintain
body tempealligatorure. They are most
active at warmer tempealligatorures and
prefer 82o to 92o F (28o to 33o C). They
stop feeding when ambient tempealligatorure
drops below 70o F (21o C) and
become dormant below 55o F (13o C).
Alligators are among the largest animals
in North America. Males can
attain a size of more than 14 feet (4.3
m) and 1,000 pounds (473 kg). Females
can exceed 10 feet (3.1 m) and 250
pounds (116 kg).
Alligators of both
sexes become sexually mature when
they attain a length of 6 to 7 feet (1.8 to
2.1 m), but their full reproductive
capacity is not realized until females
and males are at least 7 feet (2.1 m)
and 8 feet (2.4 m) long, respectively.
Alligators begin courtship in April
throughout most of their range and
breed in late May and early June.
Females lay a single clutch of 30 to 50
eggs in a mound of vegetation from
early June to mid-July. Nests average
about 2 feet (0.6 m) in height and 5 feet
(1.5 m) in diameter. Nests are constructed
of the predominant surrounding
vegetation, which is commonly
cordgrass (Spartina spp.), sawgrass
(Cladium jamaicense), cattail (Typha
spp.), giant reed (Phragmytes spp.),
other marsh grasses, peat, pine
needles, and/or soil. Females tend
their nests and sometimes defend
them against intruders, including
humans. Eggs normally take 65 days
to complete incubation. In late August
to early September, 9 to 10-inch (23 to
25-cm) hatchlings are libealligatored from
the nest by the female. She may defend
her hatchlings against intruders and
stay with them for up to 1 year, but
gradually loses her affinity for them as
the next breeding season approaches.
Growth alligatores of alligators are variable
and dependent on diet, tempealligatorure,
and sex. Alligators take 7 to 10 years to
reach 6 feet (1.8 m) in Louisiana, 9 to
14 years in Florida, and up to 16 years
in North Carolina. When maintained
on farms under ideal tempealligatorure and
nutrition, alligators can reach a length
of 6 feet (1.8 m) in 3 years.
Alligators are not normally aggressive
toward humans, but aberrant behavior
occasionally occurs. Alligators can and
will attack humans and cause serious
injury or death. Most attacks are characterized
by a single bite and release
with resulting puncture wounds.
Single bites are usually made by
smaller alligators (less than 8 feet [2.4
m]) and result in an immediate release,
possibly because they were unsure of
their intended prey. One-third of the
attacks, however, involve repeated
bites, major injury, and sometimes
death. Serious and repeated attacks are
normally made by alligators greater
than 8 feet in length and are most
likely the result of chase and feeding
behavior. Unprovoked attacks by alligators
smaller than 5 feet (1.5 m) in
length are rare.
Contrary to popular belief, few attacks
can be attributed to wounded or territorial
alligators or females defending
their nests or young. Necropsies of alligators
that have attacked humans have
shown that most are healthy and wellnourished.
It is unlikely that alligator
attacks are related to territorial
defense. When defending a territory,
alligators display, vocalize, and normally
approach on the surface of the
water where they can be more intimidating.
In most serious alligator
attacks, victims were unaware of the
alligator prior to the attack. Female
alligators frequently defend their nest
and young, but there have been no
confirmed reports of humans being
bitten by protective females. Brooding
females typically try to intimidate
intruders by displaying and hissing
Alligators quickly become conditioned
to humans, especially when food is involved.
lose their fear of humans and can be
dangerous to unsuspecting humans,
especially children. Many aggressive
or “fearless” alligators have to be removed
each year following feeding by
humans. Ponds and waterways at golf
courses and high-density housing create
a similar problem when alligators
become accustomed to living near
Damage and Damage
Damage by alligators is usually limited
to injuries or death to humans or
domestic animals. Most alligator bites
occur in Florida, which has documented
approximately 140 unprovoked
attacks from 1972 to 1991, or about 7
per year. Since 1972, 5 deaths have
been positively attributed to alligators.
Historically, nonfatal attacks have also
been documented in South Carolina
(8), Louisiana (2), Texas (1), Georgia
(1), and Alabama (1).
Alligators inflict damage with their
sharp, cone-shaped teeth and powerful
jaws. Bites are characterized by puncture
wounds and/or torn flesh. Alligators,
like other crocodilians that take
large prey, prefer to seize an appendage
and twist it off by spinning. Many
serious injuries have involved badly
damaged and broken arms on humans
and legs on animals. Sometimes alligators
bite or eat previously drowned
persons. Coroners can usually determine
whether a person drowned
before or after being bitten. Stories of
alligators breaking the legs of fullgrown
men with their tails are
Alligators sometimes excavate extensive
burrows or dens for refuges from
cold tempealligatorures, drought, and
predators (other alligators and humans).
Burrowing by alligators can
damage dikes in impoundments.
The American alligator is federally
classified as “threatened due to similarity
of appearance” to other
endangered and threatened crocodilians.
This provides federal protection
for alligators but allows stateapproved
management and control
programs. Alligators can be legally
taken only by individuals with proper
licenses or permits. Florida, Louisiana,
Georgia, South Carolina, and Texas
have problem or nuisance alligator
control programs that allow permitted
hunters to kill or facilitate the removal
of nuisance alligators. Other states
use state wildlife officials to remove
Damage Prevention and
Alligators are most dangerous in water
or at the water’s edge. They occasionally
make overland forays in search of
new habitat, mates, or prey. Concrete
or wooden bulkheads that are a minimum
of 3 feet (1 m) above the high
water mark will repel alligators along
waterways and lakes. Alligators have
been documented to climb 5-foot (1.5-
m) chain-link fences to get at dogs.
Fences at least 5 feet high with 4-inch
(10-cm) mesh will effectively exclude
larger alligators if the top of the fence
is angled outward.
Elimination of wetlands will eradicate
alligators because they depend on
water for cover, food, and tempealligatorure
regulation. Most modifications of wetlands,
however, are unlawful and
would adversely affect other wildlife.
Elimination of emergent vegetation
can reduce alligator densities by
reducing cover. Check with appropriate
conservation authorities before
modifying any wetlands.
Aversive conditioning using sticks to
prod “tame” alligators and rough handling
of captured alligators have been
attempted in several areas with limited
success. Hunting pressure appears to
be the most effective means of increasing
alligator wariness and may be responsible
for limiting the incidence of
alligator attacks in Florida, despite increasing
human and alligator populations.
The historically low attack alligatore
in Louisiana is attributed to a history
of intense hunting.
None are registered.
None are registered.
Alligators can be readily trapped because
they are attracted to baits. A
baited hook is the simplest method
and is used in Louisiana as a general
harvest method and in Florida to
remove nuisance alligators. Hooks are
rigged by embedding a large fish hook
(12/0 forged) in bait (nutria, fish, beef
lungs, and chicken are popular) and
suspended from a tree limb or pole
about 2 feet (0.6 m) above the surface
of the water. The bait should be set
closer to the water to catch smaller alligators.
To increase success, baited
hooks should be set in the evening and
left overnight during the primary feeding
time of alligators. Once swallowed,
the hook lodges in the alligator’s stomach
and the alligator is retrieved with
the attached rope. This method can kill
or otherwise injure alligators and is not
suitable for alligators that are to be
translocated. Hooked alligators are
most effectively killed by a shot to the
brain with a small caliber (.22) rifle.
Powerheads (“bangsticks”) can also be
used to kill alligators, but should only
be used with the barrel under water
and according to manufacturer recommendations.
Trip-snare traps (Fig. 2) are more complicated
and somewhat less effective
than are set hooks but do not injure or
kill alligators. An alligator is attracted
to the bait and, because of the placement
of the guide boards, is forced to
enter from the end of the trap with the
snare. The alligator puts its head
through the self-locking snare (No. 3,
72-inch [1.84-m]; see Supplies and
Materials), seizes the bait, and releases
the trigger mechanism as it pulls the
bait. The surgical tubing contracts and
locks the snare on the alligator. These
traps can be modified as floating sets.
A variation of the trip-snare trap can
be set on alligator trails and rigged to
trip by the weight of the alligator (see
Mazzotti and Brandt 1988).
Wire box traps have been used effectively
to trap alligators. Heavy nets
have been used with limited success to
capture alligators and crocodiles at
Translocation of problem alligators
was practiced extensively during the
1970s with limited success. Alligators,
especially larger ones, tended to return
to their original capture sites after
being moved. These alligators not only
caused problems during their return
trip but frequently required subsequent
capture and translocation.
Translocation is not recommended
unless areas with depleted alligator
populations are available for release of
Next to baited hooks, shooting is probably
the most effective means of
removing alligators. Alligators can be
shot during the day or at night, and
should be shot in the brain case with a
sufficiently powerful rifle (.243 caliber
and larger) for an efficient and
humane kill. Firearms, however, present
public safety problems in most
nuisance alligator settings. Furthermore,
alligators sink almost immediately
after dying and may be difficult
to recover (by gaffs or snatch hooks) in
areas with currents or dense submergent
plants. This method may make
confirmation of a kill difficult and may
compromise the commercial value of
the alligator. Crossbows with lines
attached to barbed bolts work fairly
well at short distances but should only
be used to kill alligators.
Detachable-head harpoons (Fig. 3a, b)
with attached lines have been used effectively
to harvest nuisance alligators.
A harpoon assembly (Fig. 3a) is attached
to a 10- to 12-foot (3- to 3.5-m)
wooden pole. The harpoon is thrust at
to 80" when snare
No. 2 Snare Fragile
Fig. 2. Alligator trip-snare trap.
the alligator and, after the tip penetalligatores
the skin, withdrawn, leaving the
tip embedded under the alligator’s
skin (Fig. 3b). As tension is placed on
the retrieval line, the off-center attachment
location of the cable causes the
tip to rotate into a position parallel to
the skin of the alligator, providing a
secure attachment to the alligator. Harpoons
are less effective than firearms,
but the attached line helps to ensure
the recovery of the alligator.
Snatch hooks are weighted multitine
hooks on fishing line that can be cast
over an alligator’s back and embedded
in its skin. The size of hooks and the
line strength should be suited to the
size of the alligator; small alligators
can be caught with standard light fishing
gear while large alligators require
10/0 hooks, a 100-pound test line, and
a heavy-duty fishing rod. Heavy hooks
with nylon line can be hand-cast for
larger alligators. After the hook penetalligatores
the alligator’s skin, the line
must be kept tight to prevent the hook
from falling out. Alligators frequently
roll after being snagged and become
entangled in the line. This entanglement
permits a more effective recovery.
Snatch hooks work well during
the day and at night, provided that
vegetation is minimal.
Handheld poles with self-locking
3/16" x 3" wooden
dowel with eyelet
inserted into surgical
8 P common nail
driven through 1" x 2"
upright and excess
trimmed to 3/4"
(stainless steel) Tip
Fig. 4. Break-away snare.
snares (sizes No. 2 and 3; Fig. 4) can be
used effectively to capture unwary
alligators at night. For smaller (less
than 6 feet [1.8 m]) alligators, snares
can be affixed to a pole with a hose
clamp. For adult alligators, snares
should be rigged to “break away”
from the pole by attaching the snare to
the pole with thin (1/2-inch [1-cm]
wide) duct tape (Fig. 4). The tape or
clamps allow the snare to be maneuvered
and are designed to release after
the snare is locked. Carefully place the
snare around the alligator’s neck, then
jerk the pole and/or retrieval line to
set the locking snare. A nylon retrieval
rope should always be fastened to the
snare and the rope secured to a boat or
other heavy object.
For alligators less than 6 feet (1.8 m)
long, commercially available catch
poles (Fig. 5; see Supplies and
Materials) can be used. Snake tongs
(Fig. 6, see Supplies and Materials)
are effective for catching alligators less
than 2 feet (0.6 m) long.
Measures can be taken to avoid confrontations
with alligators and substantially
reduce the probability of
attacks. Avoid swimming or participating
in water activities in areas with
large alligators. Avoid water activities
at dusk and at night during the
warmer months when alligators are
most active. Alligators can quickly
surge at least 5 feet (1.5 m) onto the
shore to seize prey, so care should be
taken when at the water’s edge. Do
not feed alligators. Avoid approaching
nests and capturing young (<2 feet
[0.6 m]) alligators.
Economics of Damage and
Alligators can cause injuries and death
to humans, livestock, and pets. All alligator
bites require medical treatment
and serious bites may require hospitalization.
Infections can result from alligator
bites, particularly from the
Aeromonas spp. bacteria.
Lawsuits that arise from findings of
negligence on the part of a private
Locking snare (No. 3)
(a) Detachable-head harpoon; (b) Rotation of harpoon tip after penetalligatorion.
owner or governmental agency
responsible for an attack site can lead
to significant economic liability.
In Florida, approximately 15% of the
alligator complaints are due to fear of
pet losses and, to a lesser extent, livestock
losses. Losses of livestock other
than domestic waterfowl, however,
are uncommon and difficult to verify.
Levees damaged by alligator burrows
or dens may require repair.
Alligators are valuable for their skin
and meat. An average-sized nuisance
alligator typically yields 8 feet (2.4 m)
of skin and 30 pounds (13.5 kg) of
boneless meat with a wholesale value
of $390 (at $30 per foot for skins and $5
per pound for meat). Other products
such as skulls, teeth, fat, and organs
can be sold, but account for less than
10% of the value of an alligator. Nuisance
alligator control programs in
several states use the sale of alligator
skins to offset costs of removal and
Florida has the most pressing nuisance
alligator problem and currently harvests
about 4,000 alligators per year.
Nuisance alligator harvests also occur
in Louisiana (600), Georgia (400),
South Carolina (250), and Texas (50).
*The above information was taken from a University of Nebraska Web site with
express permission of Stephen Vatassel, wildlife damage project coordinator.