The American Alligator
The American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis), sometimes referred to colloquially as a gator, is a reptile endemic only to the South Eastern United States. It is one of the two living species of alligator, in the genus Alligator, with in the family Alligatoridae. It is larger than the other extant alligator species, the Chinese alligator.
American alligator inhabits
wetlands that frequently
overlap with human-populated
areas, for example the South
Relationships with Humans
Human deaths and injuries
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 reptile's sheer bite force and risk of infection. Even with medical treatment, an alligator bite may still result in a fatal infection. The alligators tail is a formidable weapon that can easily knock a person down and break their bones. Alligators are protective parents who will protect their young by attacking anything that comes too close or poses threats to 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.
Several Florida tourist attractions have taken advantages of fears and myths about alligators - as well as the reality of the danger - through a practice known as alligator wrestling. Created in the early 20th century by some members of Miccosukee and Seminole Tribe of Florida, this tourism tradition continues to the present day.
Endangered Species Recovery
Historically, alligators were depleted from many parts of their range as a result of market hunting and loss of habitat, and 30 years ago many people believed their population would never recover. In 1967, the alligator was listed as an endangered species (under a law that preceded the Endangered Species Act of 1973), meaning it was considered in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.
A combined effort by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, state wildlife agencies in the South, and the creation of large, commercial alligator farms were instrumental in aiding the American alligator's recovery. The Endangered Species Act outlawed alligator hunting, allowing the species to rebound in numbers in many areas where it had been depleted. As the alligator began to make a comeback, states established alligator population monitoring programs and used this information to ensure alligator numbers continued to increase. In 1987, the Fish and Wildlife Service pronounced the American alligator fully recovered and consequently removed the animal from the list of endangered species. The Fish and Wildlife Service still regulates the legal trade in alligator skins and products made from them.
Recently, a population of non-native Burmese Pythons has become established in Everglades National Park. While there have been observed events of predation of Burmese pythons on alligators and vice versa, there is currently no evidence of a net negative effect on alligator populations.