In 1987, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that the American alligator was no longer an endangered species. Today, alligators are so numerous in some Southern states that managed hunting of the animal is allowed.
Alligators are actually living fossils from the Age of Reptiles, millions of years ago. They live in wetlands and have a symbiotic relationship with this environment.
As predators at the top of their food chain, alligators help control the spread of rodents and other animals in marshes and swamps. They also eat dead animals.
Alligators dig “gator holes,” using their mouths and claws to clear vegetation and, with their powerful tails, wallowing out a depression that fills with water in the wet season and stays full through the dry season. This hole provides water for fish, insects, turtles, birds, and other animals who can coexist with the alligator; this helps to preserve the food chain.
After breeding, the female alligator lays eggs, which she covers with debris and helps incubate for 65 days, then digs out the young once they hatch.
Alligators are the largest reptiles in North America. During their average 20-year life span, alligators can grow to 12 feet in length and weigh up to 700 pounds.