The American Alligator

by Greg Mayer

Another Florida correspondent sends this picture of several American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) in Oviedo, Florida.

American alligators

American alligators

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.

13 Comments

  1. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted January 11, 2014 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    Ah. More boots.

    (Sorry, couldn’t resist in light of the recent thread…)

  2. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted January 11, 2014 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

    If you can’t get to the southeastern United States, you can also see live gators at Colorado Gators Reptile Park in Mosca, Colorado.
    It’s fairly close to Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.

    This is not a paid endorsement.

  3. Achrachno
    Posted January 11, 2014 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

    “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”.)”

    I think the problem is that American crocodiles could be endangered by unregulated alligator harvest, not that alligators are endangered by their similarity to crocodiles. Some folks just can’t tell them apart, and others will probably claim they made a mistake and shot the wrong animal.

    • newt
      Posted January 11, 2014 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, the actual reason given for continuing regulation of alligator hunting really is “threatened due to similarity of appearance”. It’s does mean what you’re saying (because there are a lot of people who can’t tell the difference or will pretend they can’t), even though taken literally it actually means the opposite.

  4. Jeffery
    Posted January 11, 2014 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

    I just can’t get too attached to any animal that is capable of ambushing, killing, and eating me!

    • Reginald Selkirk
      Posted January 12, 2014 at 8:49 am | Permalink

      You don’t have any human friends, do you?

  5. Diana MacPherson
    Posted January 11, 2014 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

    Alligators always look like they know all your secrets; like they’ve just made a veiled threat to expose you unless you play things their way. I figure the “their way” is giving yourself up to be eaten.

    • Achrachno
      Posted January 11, 2014 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

      I don’t have any secrets that big!

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted January 12, 2014 at 8:10 am | Permalink

        Yeah me neither but the alligators must know something I don’t.

  6. Posted January 11, 2014 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

    I remember that in my youth it was pretty common for pet stores to carry baby Caimans. I do not see that any more, which of course is a good thing.

  7. Posted January 12, 2014 at 5:56 am | Permalink

    The North Carolina Aquarium at Ft. Fisher has an albino alligator named Luna. The link is to a picture I took while visiting in 2010.
    The docent said that there is a strain of albino alligators in Loisiana, but that they don’t live long in the wild.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/gmontjr/11755096854/

  8. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted January 12, 2014 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    Alligators at a place that includes a bar?
    Sounds like a recipe for trouble to me. Except in the alligator-food department that is.

  9. BilBy
    Posted January 12, 2014 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

    Ah Florida – seen quite a few roadkill gator and always assumed it was deliberate (a 5 foot gator is not difficult to see), but then one day had to slam on the brakes as one made a dash from one side of the road to the pond on the other.


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