Where to see Alligators in the wild

Have you ever wanted to know where to see Alligators in the wild? The word “alligator” comes from the Spanish word “el lagarto,” which means “the lizard.” Alligators have been living on Earth for millions of years and are sometimes described as ‘living fossils’. An alligator is a crocodilian in the genus Alligator of the family Alligatoridae. The two extant species are the American alligator and the Chinese alligator. Additionally, several extinct species of alligator are known from fossil remains. 

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Types of Alligators

About

Difference between alligators and crocodiles

Safety tips

Where to see Alligators

Summary

Types of Alligators; Lower classifications

where to see alligators

American Alligators

The American alligator, sometimes referred to colloquially as a gator or common alligator, is a large crocodilian reptile native to the Southeastern United States, with a small population in Mexico. The American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis), the larger of the two species, is found in the southeastern United States. It is black with yellow banding when young and is generally brownish when adult.

Chinese Alligators

The Chinese alligator, also known as the Yangtze alligator, China alligator, or historically the muddy dragon, is a crocodilian endemic to China. It and the American alligator are the only living species in the genus Alligator. The Chinese alligator (A. sinensis) is a much smaller, little-known reptile found in the Yangtze River region of China. It is similar to the larger form but attains a maximum length of about 2.1 metres (7 feet)—although usually growing to 1.5 metres—and is blackish with faint yellowish markings. Today, the Chinese alligator is widely regarded as the most endangered crocodilian in the world: it is ranked as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List, listed in Appendix I of CITES, and considered a Class I Endangered Species in China. The Chinese alligator is also listed as one of 15 “precious and rare species” in a strategic plan for wildlife conservation in China developed in 2001. Fewer than 100 Chinese alligators are thought to remain, and thus the species is considered critically endangered .

You can donate to Chinese Alligator protection via the Chinese Alligator fund.

Extinct: prenasalis Alligators

Alligator prenasalis is an extinct species of alligator. It is well known, with many fossils having been collected from the Oligocene Chadron and Brule Formations in South Dakota. The species was first named in 1904, but was originally classified as a crocodile in the genus Crocodilus.

All about Alligators

LifespanAmerican alligator: 30 – 50 years
Speed: 32 km/h (Maximum, In The Water)
Clutch sizeAmerican alligator: 20 – 50
Family: Alligatoridae
MassAmerican alligator: 230 kg, Chinese alligator: 36 – 45 kg
LengthAmerican alligator: 3 – 4,6 m, Chinese alligator: 1,5 m

Distribution

America and China. The American alligator lives in the southern United States, from North Carolina to Texas, according to the Smithsonian Zoo. These gators can be found in slow-moving rivers, ponds, lakes and swamps. Chinese alligators live in eastern China, and they are confined to a small area in the Yangtze River basin near the Pacific Ocean. They are traditionally found in rivers, lakes, ponds and swamps, but are now confined mostly to ditches and ponds on agricultural land.

Habitat

Adult alligators are apex predators critical to the biodiversity of their habitat. They prefer fresh water lakes and slow-moving rivers and their associated wetlands, but they also can be found in brackish water habitats.

where to see alligators

Diet

The adult alligator feeds mainly on fishes, small mammals, and birds but may sometimes take prey as large as deer or cattle. Though carnivores usually only eat meat, alligators will also munch on fruit such as wild grapes, elderberries, and citrus fruits directly from trees. Alligators may help spread the seeds of these fruits throughout their habitats.

Behavior

Large male alligators are solitary territorial animals. Smaller alligators can often be found in large numbers close to each other. The largest of the species (both males and females) defend prime territory; smaller alligators have a higher tolerance for other alligators within a similar size class.

 Alligators are often less dangerous than crocodiles because they are more choosy about their prey.

Alligators are social creatures and often stay in groups called congregations. These groups are typically seen basking in the sun or taking a swim.  Alligators are ectothermic — they rely on external sources of heat to regulate their body temperature. Alligators control their body temperature by basking in the sun, or moving to areas with warmer or cooler air or water temperatures. While most reptiles have 3-chambered hearts, the heart of alligators, and all crocodilians, has 4 chambers, a trait shared with mammals and birds. 

Breeding and Lifespan

In breeding season, courtship rituals include head-slapping on the water’s surface, snout and back rubbing, and blowing bubbles.There is a 65-day incubation period. When the eggs are ready to hatch, the young alligators make high-pitched noises from inside their eggs. This causes their mother to start digging them out of the nest and carrying her babies down to the water in her jaws. She may protect her young for up to a year and interestingly their sex is determined by temperature.

Average Lifespan is approximately 30-50 years however ther have been many alligators living beyond 50 years.

Agility

Alligators also use water to hunt. On land they are awkward, but in the water they can swim very quickly using their tails. This makes it easier for them to catch prey. American alligators can swim up to 20 mph (32.18 km/h) and run on land as fast as 11 mph (17.7 km/h).

Communication

Alligators have a variety of different calls to declare territory, signal distress, threaten competitors, and find mates. Although they have no vocal cords, alligators bellow loudly by sucking air into their lungs and blowing it out in intermittent roars. In addition to bellowing, alligators can growl, hiss, and make a cough-like sound called a chumpf. 

Evolution

The most recent evidence indicates that crocodilians (which includes alligators) and dinosaurs evolved from a common ancestor that existed subsequent to the common ancestor that they share with other reptiles. So, even though alligators are classified as reptiles along with lizards, snakes, and turtles, they are actually more closely related to birds, whose direct ancestors were dinosaurs!

fossil
An intriacately preserved fossil

Conservaton status

With one of the three types of alligators already extinct, it is deeply saddening to know the Chinese Alligator is crtically endangered. he American alligator has been hunted for its hide, and its young have been sold in large numbers as pets. It disappeared from many areas where it was once abundant and was later given legal protection from hunters.

The difference between Alligators and Crocodiles

Typically, crocodiles are more aggressive than alligators, which makes crocodiles more dangerous than alligators. Alligators are opportunistic feeders. They do not hunt unless it is necessary. However, that certainly doesn’t mean that you should swim with them. Caution should be exercised at all times near alligators and crocodiles.

Crocodile vs alligator snout

Alligators have a wide, rounded, u-shaped snout, while crocodiles have long, pointed, v-shaped snouts.

Crocodiles are different from alligators in this sense, where both upper and lower jaws of a crocodile are the same size, exposing their teeth as they interlock, creating the look of a toothy grin.

where to see alligators and crocs
Crocodile ( Nile).

Safety Tips for Alligator encounters

In many coastal regions, humans are encroaching on alligator habitat, so the two species are more likely to cross paths. Population growth and the tourism industry have increased the frequency of human-alligator interactions. It is therefore important to take the following safety precautions…

alligator
Crocodile with a big -open- mouth.

Alligator Safety

  1. Leave alligators alone. Alligators are shy animals that usually avoid human contact.
  2. Pay attention. …
  3. Do not feed alligators. …
  4. Throw fish scraps into trash cans. …
  5. Follow directions on signs. …
  6. Swim during daylight hours only. …
  7. Stay with children. …
  8. Keep an eye on your pets.

 If you do have a close run-in with an alligator that charges at you, run away fast and straight, not zig-zag. It is unlikely, however, that an alligator will display this behavior unless you are near its nest.

Where to see Alligators?

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Where to see alligators in America

  • New Orleans, Louisiana.
  • Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
  • The Everglades, Florida.
  • Mobile-Tensaw River Delta, Alabama.
  • Houston, Texas.

Tours & Operators

Everglades Airboat tours

Air boats tours

Tigertail Airboat tours

American Alligator, Florida Everglades

Where to see alligators in China

Today it is limited to the lower Yangtze river; the largest river in Asia, primarily in the Anhui and Zhejiang provinces in eastern ChinaChinese alligators are found in slow-moving freshwater rivers and streams, including lakes, ponds and swamps.

Unfortunately it isn’t possible to book tours to see these alligators. One can visit alligators in parks across various parts of the country. However we cannot attest to the state of care for alligators. Let us know if you have visited any of these parks and whether or not you can recomend them for alligator encounters…

Where to see Alligators: Summary

where to see alligators in america

After reading this blog, would you like to see alligators in the wild? It is a privilege to witness the beauty of these majestic and prehistoric reptiles.

Have a look at our other blogs featuring reptiles such as crocodiles and sea turtles!

See ya later Alligator!