See the American Alligator Up Close at Everglades Holiday Park
As the official state reptile of Florida, the American alligator, more formally known as Alligator Mississippinsis, is one of our favorite animals. A species believed to be more than 150 million years old, alligators are iconic in the Sunshine State, with over 1.5 million in existence. In the Everglades alone, there are more than 200,000 alligators roaming free, left to enjoy a peaceful, quiet life in the marshy swamps known as the River of Grass.
What is it about these reptiles that interest us so much, and why do people from all over the world visit South Florida in hopes of getting a glimpse of alligators in their natural habitat? Let’s find out! We’ve put together some fun facts about gators that will help you get to know this incredible animal. Whether you’re a Florida native in need of a refresher, or you’re simply looking for a great read, you’re sure to enjoy learning about our most popular resident – the amazing American alligator. Ready to get started?
American Alligator Physical Description
Most people know what an alligator looks like, and many can even draw a pretty good one on paper. But did you know that alligators are the largest reptiles in North America? It’s true. The average size for an adult male is over 11 feet! It’s easy to see why a reptile over 10 feet long gives some people pause. However, females are slightly smaller, coming in at an average of just 8 feet. But length is only the beginning, because alligators in Florida can weigh as much as 1,000 pounds!
The scaly appearance that creates the alligator’s characteristic “armored shell” actually consists of bony plates called “scutes” – the perfect protection against would be predators. Although gators tend to be long and lean, they have pretty short legs with five digits on the front feet and four on the back. But it’s the tail that is perhaps one of the most defining features of an alligator, accounting for almost half of the gators length! Made of pure muscle, an alligator tail not only protects against predators, but also, doubles as a pretty good rudder for steering and propelling its heavy body through the water.
The snout is long and rounded with eyes positioned on top of the head, making it easy for gators to see with only the head out of water. However, when they swim underwater, the nostrils close and a protective layer forms over the eyes. Gators can stay submerged for up to an hour! The typical alligator has 80 teeth in their mouth at one time, and most will go through 2,000-3,000 teeth in a lifetime!
Alligator Habitat – Everglades Restoration
Alligators are mostly found in freshwater habitats like rivers, marshes, swamps and lakes, which is why the Everglades is the perfect locale for gator watching. They feed on small wildlife that inhabit these areas, like turtles, fish, snakes and small mammals. While modern alligators are doing quite well in the marshy waters of South Florida and southern portions of the United Sates, originally they were classified as endangered, and in need of protection.
Luckily, a combination of state and federal protections as well as habitat preservation efforts helped save alligators from extinction. And today, they are happier and more robust than ever. Nevertheless, Everglades restoration is an important topic and politicians, activists and nature enthusiasts raise awareness and spread the word about the importance of maintaining Florida’s most exciting natural attraction.
How to Tell the Difference Between an Alligator and a Crocodile
To most people, an alligator and a crocodile look pretty similar. But to those of us who know them well, they couldn’t be more different. How do we tell them apart? Generally, the first tell tale sign that you’re looking at an alligator and not a crocodile is the teeth. Unlike a crocodile, an alligator’s teeth are not visible when the jaws are shut. Even from a distance, alligators are easy to spot as they have a wide snout, compared to the lean snout of the crocodile. In most cases, crocodiles frequent the saltwater marshes, while alligators prefer fresh water. Tours through the Everglades typically stay in the fresh water areas, making it more likely you’ll see alligators rather than crocodiles.
The Effort to Protect the American Alligator
The work of the Gator Boys Alligator Rescue team at Everglades Holiday Park is inspirational to many, even to those who have never visited the park. The effort began many years ago as gators were mistakenly wandering into places they shouldn’t be, like backyards, swimming pools, shallow neighborhood lakes and ponds, even golf courses! The Gate Boys crew, well aware that alligators were hunted for their skins, made it their mission to help save as many well deserving reptiles as they could.
For many years, the Gator Boys were called to remove “nuisance” gators from residential areas in Florida, bringing them to a safe haven at Everglades Holiday Park in Fort Lauderdale. Today, visitors to the park delight in meeting members of the Gator Boys crew (and the gators) during a live alligator presentation in the world famous “Gator Pit”. Families, adventure seekers and nature enthusiasts visit the park each day for the chance to journey through the Everglades on an exciting airboat tour. The park is happy to welcome alligators and fully committed to helping children and folks of all ages learn about the amazing alligator and other incredible Everglades wildlife each and every day.
For more information on how you can book an airboat tour through the Everglades and see the Gator Boys perform live, please visit www.evergladesholidaypark.com today!This entry was posted in Everglades Holiday Park Blog, on .