Alligator Fun Facts

The Everglades is Florida’s most treasured gem. Many people of all ages visit our park after learning fun facts about alligators, so they are excited to see gators in their natural habitat. This 1.5-million-acre wetland preserve is famous for its abundant wildlife, winding waterways, and diverse ecosystems – which is why so many people love embarking on our airboat adventures at Everglades Holiday Park.

On your everglades airboat tour, you’ll have the opportunity to cruise through the waterways and learn about the various life forms that work harmoniously to keep the Everglades healthy and thriving. Don’t be surprised if you hear a big splash in the water occasionally – it might just be an American alligator diving in the water to cool off.

Quick Alligator Facts

Before visiting Everglades Holiday Park, you might be interested in learning about alligator facts since you’re likely to see them sunbathing or silently stalking their prey. Florida natives know these large reptiles are everywhere, but visitors to the Everglades might be shocked to see these awe-inspiring reptiles in their natural habitat. Before you embark on your airboat ride, check out these interesting facts:

  • Alligators cannot digest salt; therefore they can only live in freshwater environments, like ponds, marshes, wetlands, and swamps.
  • Male alligators can grow up to 15 feet, and female alligators can grow up to 9 feet.
  • There are an estimated 1.25 million alligators in Florida alone and an estimated 200,000 in the Everglades.
  • Alligators are traditionally solitary reptiles. Larger male gators are almost exclusively solitary, but smaller alligators are often found in greater numbers because they have a higher tolerance for other alligators.
  • During April, May, and June you might be able to spot larger gators in groups for mating purposes. During this time, alligators will lay between 30-40 eggs that will incubate for 60-65 days.
  • Alligators can replace lost teeth and use up to 3,000 teeth in their lifetime.
  • Alligator jaws can exert up to 1,000 pounds of pressure.
  • Alligators typically live between 30 to 35 years in the wild and approximately 50 in captivity.
  • Alligators are considered a “keystone” to their environment, meaning they are essential to the health of the ecosystem they inhabit.

Through joint conservation efforts throughout Florida, the American alligator has been removed from the endangered list. For those hoping to catch a glimpse of these exotic reptiles, Everglades Holiday Park is the place to go to learn more and see them up close! Our park offers private, group, and VIP Everglades airboat rides. Each tour is *60-minutes in length and narrated by our expert Everglades captains.

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    Alligator? or Crocodile?

    Differing Habitats

    At first glance, alligators and crocodiles can look like the same animal, but there are many differences beginning with their habitats. The American alligator, or alligator mississippiensis, prefers freshwater areas, while crocodiles are primarily found in brackish or saltwater. This means you are unlikely to see the two species living together; unless you are in the Florida Everglades! The Everglades are the only place on Earth where alligators and crocodiles live side-by-side.

    Focus on the Snout

    This means you will need to know how to physically tell them apart through observation. Focus on their snouts; a crocodile’s snout is pointier and V-shaped. Alligators have snouts that are wider and U-shaped. An alligator’s upper jaw will have a visible overbite compared to a crocodile’s exposed pattern of upper and lower teeth.

    Closely related is also a Chinese alligator, but Chinese alligators are only found in certain locations of China. This alligator species, called alligator sinensis, has a slightly turned-up snout at the end and is significantly smaller in size than the American alligator. Chinese alligators remain critically endangered. You can see both types of alligators at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo.


    While you shouldn’t count on using behavior to differentiate, and both species can be very dangerous, unprovoked alligators tend to be more passive than crocodiles. Crocodiles are known for attacking anything near them, provoked or not. They are definitely the more aggressive reptile.

    The Conservation Journey of the American Alligator

    From Critically Endangered to Conservation Success

    Once on the path to extinction, the American alligator has really made a comeback and is now categorized as Least Concern. When alligators were put on the Endangered Species list in 1967, many doubted that their population could recover and thrive. American alligators had become critically endangered through hunting and habitat destruction. The American alligator population has greatly increased through the joint efforts of state and wildlife officials and is no longer endangered.

    The Role of Fish and Wildlife Services in Alligator Conservation

    Fish and Wildlife services have partnered with state officials over the years, to great success, with extensive conservation and education. Their management of the alligator population has worked very well in allowing humans and alligators to live side by side, even as their numbers have skyrocketed since 1967.

    How the State of Florida and Everglades Played a Role in Their Recovery

    The state of Florida helps alligators by abiding by the Clean Water Act and the protection of the Florida Everglades. It is a third-degree felony with a $5,000 fine and/or jail time to capture, possess, injure, or kill an alligator in Florida.

    The Habitat of the Alligator

    Wild alligators thrive in the southeastern United States, and Louisiana and Florida top the charts with the most alligators; over one million in each state! American alligators live throughout swamps, slow-moving rivers, lakes, and ponds. Alligators enjoy warm water and warm weather. They are often found lying in the sun to bask and will cool themselves off by opening their mouths to release stored heat. Alligators nest near dense vegetation for juvenile alligators to have protection from predators.

    Understanding Alligator Behavior

    Nesting Behaviors

    Female alligators build nests along marsh and pond banks after mating. Alligator nests can be over six feet across, and their preferred nesting materials are mud, sticks, and other vegetation. Some of the nesting material may be decomposing plant matter. The female alligator will lay 20 to 50 eggs around early July and may place up to a foot of vegetation on top of the eggs! She will go through mating, nesting, and rearing young from about April to September during breeding season. A mother alligator will stay with her babies from when they are eggs until they are raised to juvenile alligators a year later.

    Protecting the Nest and Baby Alligators

    American alligator mothers are very caring toward their babies, called hatchlings, and the mother protects and cares for their young until at least a year of age. This doting behavior starkly contrasts their ferocious hunting and fierce protection of their nests and young. A baby alligator can be vulnerable to predators, but luckily, American alligators protect their young from raccoons, bobcats, and birds. They are territorial and will fight within the species to defend their young.

    The Sounds and Roars of Alligators Explained

    American alligators make a bellow to communicate with rivals and mates. Their bellow can give other alligators information about their size. Bigger alligators make lower bellows. Larger alligators can bellow to keep the annoyance of a smaller alligator out of his territory, and this will also save the smaller alligator from encountering a much larger opponent!

    Mother alligators may roar to respond to hearing that their babies are in distress. Babies will make a chirping barking sound if, for example, other animals encroach on their space and they feel threatened.

    The Alligator Diet: What Do They Really Eat?

    An Opportunistic Eater

    Alligators prey primarily on fish, but they aren’t picky eaters. They’ll also eat amphibians, birds, snakes, turtles, and small mammals. If the opportunity presents itself, an alligator is likely to go after a large mammal, including deer, sheep, cows, and boars.

    The Surprising Fact: Alligators and Fruit Consumption

    Scientists have been surprised that many alligators consume fruit, not as a staple of their diet but more as a snack! After examining alligator excrement, researchers found evidence that alligators eat fruit like wild grapes and elderberries. It was previously thought that alligators would have trouble digesting plant-based sugars.

    The Role of Small Fish and Turtles in an Alligator’s Diet

    Alligators can rip and swallow food, but they do not chew, so they will often eat small prey and swallow them whole. They eat fish and small turtles that can be easily swallowed, especially before they grow too large.

    Mating and Reproduction

    Breeding Season and Its Unique Aspects

    Alligator mating season runs from April to September, including courtship, mating, nesting, and hatching. During this time, alligators may be more aggressive and not allow recreational activities like kayaking or walking to occur as close as they usually would.

    How the Number of Eggs Varies: From 35 to 90

    The number of eggs a female alligator lays can depend on her health and age. An older, larger reptile will lay more eggs than a much younger or smaller one. The environment can also make an impact on the number of eggs in the nest: alligators who are less stressed and have access to a good diet will be more successful with their reproduction.

    Factors That Determine the Gender of Young Alligators

    When incubating conditions are cooler, more female offspring will be created and hatched compared to more males during warmer conditions. The location of the nest can make it warmer or cooler depending on direct sunlight and the amount and type of vegetation. The incubation of eggs can also vary based on which eggs are deeper in the nest (cooler temperature) or more shallow (warmer temperature). In this case, you can have a mix of males and females depending on where each egg is located.


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