Get Out! Explore Texas Fun Stuff Wild Things

Hey, Tortuga Tex,Tell Me More About the American Alligator!

Who brought the alligators to Texas?

They've been in some areas off and on as temperatures and geological conditions allowed for the last 65 million years.

Has anyone ever been hurt or killed by the alligators in the parks?

Since they started keeping records some people have been injured by alligators, but not until 2012 was an attack documented in a State Park. One human fatality has been attributed to an alligator attack in Texas.

What's the biggest alligator in Texas?

No one really knows for sure. There are some that measure 15 to 16 feet in length that live here. You don't usually live to be all that big if you're an alligator and stay where people can see you.

How long do alligators get?

You can guess an alligator's length accurately by guessing the distance from its eyes to its nose in inches. For each inch add one foot of length. 4 inches = 4 feet long and so on.

How old do alligators get?

The oldest recorded age of an alligator is 56 years. This was an alligator in a zoo. Wild alligators are impossible to age after they reach about five feet long, because the growth rate may vary from gator to gator and it's not as precise as when they were growing a foot a year. Wild gators probably do get over 40 or so before death catches up with them.

Do you feed the alligators at the parks?

For the last 65 million years alligators have done a pretty good job of feeding themselves. No, we don't feed the alligators. Park visitors should not feed them, either. It teaches them to be unafraid of humans, and junk food is bad for them anyway.

What do alligators eat? How often?

Alligators eat potato chips, marshmallows, burned wieners; anything that splashes in the water near them that looks and smells like food. (They really don't know people can be food.....yet!) They normally eat fish, turtles, frogs, crayfish, birds, and mammals such as raccoons, opossums, armadillos, rabbits, and even sometimes deer. They also eat shotgun shells, beer cans, fishing corks, and rocks.

Because alligators are "cold blooded" they use food mainly for growth, repair and reproduction. The can probably go for a year or so without eating if they had to. During the winter they are not known to eat at all.

Do alligators hibernate in the winter?

Not really. On cold days, they hide in underground/underwater dens, but as soon as the sun shines and it's not terribly cold, they'll be out.

How long can an alligator stay underwater?

Easily 20 to 30 minutes and they can stay under from 1 hour to 24 hours if necessary and conditions are right. They prepare slowly to stay underwater for those long period by slowing their heart beat, temperature, etc.

When do alligators have their young?

Mating occurs in May and June. Nest building takes place in late June to early July. Hatching is about 60 to 70 days later in late August to early September.
NOTE: Mama alligator guards her nest vigorously!

How many eggs does a female alligator lay?

Between 20 and 60 eggs depending on her size. The average is 30 to 40. Only one in about 100 baby alligators ever lives to be 3 feet long, however. Fish, turtles, frogs, snakes, birds, and mammals eat them.

Are alligators cannibalistic?

To some extent, yes, when they begin to compete for the same kinds of foods. Llittle alligators eat little things that big alligators ignore, and so they aren't competing for the same food supply at that time.

Do alligators make any sounds?

Alligators make several sounds. Young alligators make a chirping sound rarely heard in alligators over about 4' long. Larger alligators will hiss when threatened as a warning to leave them alone. Sexually mature alligators bellow (sounds like a chainsaw trying to start). Both males and females can bellow. The males sound more impressive; the female's sound is more like "snorts" because of their usually smaller size. Bellowing is not necessarily related to mating, however.

Do alligators really use their tails as weapons?

Their tails are strong and powerful, but they are that way for swimming, not fighting. Sometimes an alligator might "hit" something with its tail, but probably it is an accident. An alligator often turns to the side to bite at something and its tail moves in the same direction to help it keep its balance. So it may be said that if an alligator hits something with its tail, it is because it was trying to bite it with its mouth.

What's the difference between an alligator and a crocodile?

Range: Alligators live throughout much of the Southeastern United States. Crocodiles do not live in Texas. It's too cold. The nearest crocodile is the American crocodile in far south Florida and it's almost extinct.

Color differences: Alligators are grayish-black, possibly to absorb the sunshine. Crocs are grayish-green, possibly to reflect sunshine.

Climate preferences: Alligators can live in "cooler" climates than crocodiles. Crocodiles live in hotter climates.

Nest building techniques: Alligators build mounds. Crocodiles dig holes to lay eggs.

Temperament differences: Alligators don't normally eat people. Since they have been isolated from humans for all but about 5 or 6 thousand years, they don't really understand we're on the menu, unless we teach them. Crocodiles understand humans can be food.

Smiles on their faces: Alligators have an overbite. All you see are the top teeth pointing downward. Crocodiles have a toothy grin when their mouths are closed. You see both top teeth and bottom teeth.

Skulls and jaws: Alligator jaws and skulls are broad and rounded at the snout. Crocodiles have narrow, somewhat pointed skulls and jaws.

Back to Top
Back to Top