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The American Alligator

The American Alligator in Central Florida

Florida's Apex Preditor on the Lagoon

Friday July 20, 2018

The American alligator is a rare success story of an endangered animal not only saved from extinction but now thriving. State and federal protections, habitat preservation efforts, and reduced demand for alligator products have improved the species' wild population to more than one million and growing today.

Heavy and ungainly out of water, these reptiles are supremely well adapted swimmers. Males average 10 to 15 feet (3 to 4.6 meters) in length and can weigh 1,000 pounds (453 kg). Females grow to a maximum of about 9.8 feet (3 meters.)

Hatchlings are 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 centimeters) long with yellow and black stripes. Juveniles, which are on the menu for dozens of predators, including birds, raccoons, bobcats, and even other alligators, usually stay with their mothers for about two years.

Adult alligators are apex predators critical to the biodiversity of their habitat. They feed mainly on fish, turtles, snakes, and small mammals. However, they are opportunists, and a hungry gator will eat just about anything, including carrion, pets and, in rare instances, humans.

Gator Holes

The alligator's greatest value to the marsh and the other animals that inhabit it are the "gator holes" that many adults create and expand on over a period of years. An alligator uses its mouth and claws to uproot vegetation to clear out a space; then, shoving with its body and slashing with its powerful tail, it wallows out a depression that stays full of water in the wet season and holds water after the rains stop. During the dry season, and particularly during extended droughts, gator holes provide vital water for fish, insects, crustaceans, snakes, turtles, birds, and other animals in addition to the alligator itself.

Sometimes, the alligator may expand its gator hole by digging beneath an overhanging bank to create a hidden den. After tunneling as far as 20 feet (6 m), it enlarges the den, making a chamber with a ceiling high enough above water level to permit breathing. This is not the alligator's nest but merely a way for the reptile to survive the dry season and winters.

1). National Geographic "American Alligator" American Alligator Alligator mississippiensis

Alligators are capable of killing humans, but are generally wary enough not to see them as a potential prey. Alligator bites are serious injuries due to the risk of infection and trauma. Inadequate treatment or neglect of an alligator bite may result in an infection that necessitates amputation of a limb. The alligator's tail is a fearsome weapon capable of knocking a person down and breaking bones. Alligators are protective parents who will protect their young by attacking anything that comes too close or looks like it's aggressive and could kill one of the baby alligators.
Since 1948, there have been more than 275 unprovoked attacks on humans in Florida, of which at least 17 resulted in death. There were only nine fatal attacks in the U.S. throughout the 70s, 80s, and 90s, but alligators killed 12 people from 2001 to 2007. In May 2006, alligators killed three Floridians in four days, two of them in the same day[citation needed].
Several Florida tourist attractions have taken advantage of fears and myths about alligators -- as well as the reality of their danger -- through a practice known as alligator wrestling. Created in the early 20th Century by some members of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, this tourism tradition continues to the present day.

Alligators In Saltwater Lagoons in Florida

We often see alligators in the Central Florida area in and around the saltwater lagoons and waterways. Every few years, we have stories in the local newspaper (with photographs) of alligators in the ocean waves near our touristy beaches in Cape Canaveral and Cocoa Beach.

Several Years ago, Captain Richard came upon an alligator almost 11 miles out at sea swimming slowly back toward land. While this is rare, it proves that alligators have no problems with saltwater marshes and habitats and often frequent our salty areas where Lagooner Fishing Guides take anglers.

Recently a young man suspected of burglarizing homes made National Headlines in Brevard County when he sought refuge from the law in a nearby lake and was eaten by an eleven foot alligator as reported by Florida Today [Alligator Eats Burglar].

The American Alligator is a preditor found high on the food chain in the southern United States and Florida. We often see alligators when we are fishing in the shallow water saltwater lagoons on Florida's east coast.

Published by: Captain of Lagooner Fishing Guides©

Author Captain Richard Bradley

Captain Richard Bradley is the author and contributor for many of the articles written on the Lagooner website. Richard is a professional fishing guide, taking anglers in his native waters near the Banana and Mosquito Lagoons on Florida's central east coast almost three hundred trips seasonally. When not charter fishing, Captain Richard enjoys time with his family surfing, fishing, camping and various other outdoor activities.

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