by Greg Mayer
Another Florida correspondent sends this picture of several American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) in Oviedo, Florida.
They’re at a combination bar, gift shop, and wildlife refuge (the kind of place Florida specializes in, I gather!) on the shore of Lake Jesup. Alligators are said to be abundant in the lake, and a few are kept on display near the gift shop. You can still see on the alligators’ flanks some remnants of the yellow stripes typical of young alligators. These look to be somewhere in the vicinity of 7 feet (the one back right is smaller), but that’s just a guess. There are well authenticated records of alligators 19 feet long, but none that big has been seen in a long time.
Like the Brown Pelican, American alligators are also a conservation success story. Greatly depleted by both the draining of swamps and hunting for the leather trade (boots, handbags, etc.) through the 19th and 20th centuries, they received federal protection in the 1960s, and by 1987 they had recovered sufficiently so that alligators are now subject to endangered species regulation only because they can easily be confused with species that are endangered. (In federal jargon, that means they are “threatened by similarity of appearance”.) They are now common in many areas, and hunting/trapping them, and selling alligator products, is once again broadly legal. (Much commercially marketed alligator meat and other alligator products comes from alligator farms, not from wild alligators.) Live alligators, mostly through the pet trade, pop up all over the US.