Alligators are apex predators, one that has popularized popular culture and frequently appear on the news, typically attached to a crazy story coming out of Florida. Alligators appear in multiple places around the continental United States, but they're most predominantly known for living in Florida because of the Everglades and many swamps.
But gators don't stay confined to the swampy areas. They can be found roaming pretty much all over the state. You might see an alligator swimming in a puddle at a crowded intersection or even visiting your neighbor's swimming pool. Here are ten facts you might not know about Florida alligators.
UPDATE: 2022/06/10 16:20 EST BY LIANNA TEDESCO
12 Things You Didn’t Know About Alligators In Florida
Not surprisingly, alligators are a big draw for visitors to Florida's national parks and Everglades. Having the chance to witness one of these apex predators in person is a thrilling experience and one that many people do through the state's various tours. With that being said, it's also a good idea to know as much about these powerful and ancient animals as possible - thus, our updated and informative list.
12 Some People Refer To Them As "Living Fossils"
Let's get one thing straight; alligators and crocodiles are not living fossils. National Geographic did an entire study disproving this fact. However, that doesn't stop people from referring to them as such, and why wouldn't they? They look like something that crawled out of the prehistoric era. There were crocodiles and alligators in the past, though they didn't look the same as the ones in existence today.
Nevertheless, it is undeniable that these creatures are somewhat monstrous in appearance. They are unlike any other reptile, and there are a great many of them out there. Alligators have taken on legendary status as predators to fear, especially for people who live in an area as populated with them as Florida is.
11 An Alligator Will Grow More Than 2,000 Teeth In Its Lifetime
As if it wasn't bad enough to imagine an alligator chomping down on your arm or leg, did you know they will have anywhere from 2,000 to 3,000 teeth? Typically, alligators have about 80 teeth in their mouth at one time, but they lose teeth frequently.
They're carnivorous predators, and it's not unusual for them to lose teeth on a difficult kill. Luckily for them—and not so much for us—alligators will regrow their teeth quickly. By comparison, humans only have about 52 teeth in their lifetime and two sets max.
10 They Aren't Naturally Aggressive Toward Humans
Despite what the media and Lake Placid would have you believe, alligators are not naturally aggressive towards humans. That said, alligator-on-human attacks are somewhat frequent, more so than other predators such as sharks, because alligators have grown increasingly bold in where they venture.
Unfortunately, there isn't much you can do about an alligator that crawls into your house through the kitchen window. If you tread on one in the dark, well, yes, they may attack. In general, as long as you stay clear of them and don't go swimming in their home or get close to their nests, you should be fine. Be mindful of where they are located at all times
9 Alligators Are Cannibals
It's not just us who have to fear being eaten by an alligator; even other alligators have to be cautious around each other! Alligators are no strangers to cannibalism. Baby alligators, in particular, are the most at risk.
Alligators tend to eat their young to administer population control and ensure they don't have too much competition for food sources. These reptiles are not pack animals; they typically hang out alone, and, therefore, it makes sense they would have no issue with killing off any competition to their livelihood.
8 The Estimated Alligator Population In Florida Is Around One Million
According to Newsweek, it is estimated that there are around 1.3 million alligators in Florida. With so many of these predators roaming around, one might anticipate fatal alligator attacks are a regular occurrence. In truth, they aren't.
The media makes it seem worse than it is. That doesn't mean they don't happen; when the Newsweek article was written, in 2016, there had been 23 unprovoked fatal attacks. However, when you compare that to car crash statistics, it pales in comparison. The most important thing is to be alert and stay out of areas rife with alligator activity.
7 They Eat A Surprising Amount Of Fruit
Most of us think of alligators as vicious, carnivorous predators, but did you know they are fond of eating fruit? Both alligators and crocodiles will eat fruit, and even veggies, when available. Initially, scientists thought this was a practice specific to the reptiles raised in captivity, but studies have been conducted on wild alligators as well.
According to Smithsonian Magazine, it has indeed been proven that alligators will enjoy the occasional elderberry, citrus fruit, or wild grapes if they find them out in the wild. Scientist Brian Switek stated that "crocodilians are capable of breaking down the carbohydrates, proteins, and fats in vegetable matter, so the fruit-eating by these archosaurs could be a nutritional supplement."
6 Alligator Attacks Aren't Always Fatal
As we mentioned earlier in this article, alligator attacks are rare. That said, if you are unlucky enough to cross paths with an angry gator, and it bites you, that doesn't automatically mean you're doomed. It is vital that you fight back and not just lie still. Punch, hit, kick, or attack the eyes of the gator that has sunk its teeth into you.
Odds are, the alligator will release and retreat because they don't want to go after prey that could potentially harm them. In general, it's a good idea to always keep at least 50 feet between you and any nearby gators.
5 Alligators Are Everywhere In Florida
When people say alligators are all over the place in Florida, they're not lying. They already feel they have free run of the place, but, when bad weather strikes, it's not uncommon to find displaced gators in the roads, in local swimming pools, and even in your backyard.
They even like to hang out on golf courses. Most locals are aware of the alligators around and know how to steer clear of them. However, there have been repeated cases of alligators getting into peoples' yards and homes.
4 Much Like Humans, They Love Disney World
Alligators have always frequented Disney World, but the issue came to a head in 2016 after a tragic incident involving an alligator killing a two-year-old boy at a Walt Disney World hotel. The parents were incensed about the attack and the fact the alligators were left to roam around. In an article published in the Washington Post, it was reported that the park had more than 200 alligators removed between 2006 and 2015.
In the days before the attack, six alligators were removed, and, in the days after, five more were removed. Some of them were more than 6-feet long. It's not all that surprising given how well-kept the waters are. Now there are signs up warning guests about the possibility of encountering a gator in certain areas.
3 They Are Shockingly Adept At Climbing
Given their tremendous size and proclivity towards the water, you wouldn't expect that alligators would be skilled at climbing, but they are. It's not at all uncommon to catch alligators scaling fences. Just like last week, there was an incident involving a massive alligator scaling a fence into a Navy base.
They may be big, but they're surprisingly agile creatures. Usually, they scale fences because they're trying to get to a body of water, such as someone's swimming pool, but it's more proof that you always need to be aware of what is going on in your backyard.
2 The Largest Alligator Weighed In At Over A Thousand Pounds
Along with being apex predators, these incredible animals can also grow to exponentially large sizes. The largest alligator ever weighed topped out at 1,011 pounds and was caught in Alabama. With that being said, alligators aren't even the largest of their kind - there are crocodiles that can get even bigger than that, as well.
1 Temperature Determines Whether An Alligator Is Male Or Female
Rather than being predetermined by DNA, the temperature of an egg before it's hatched is a determining factor in its gender. A warm nest means that most of the eggs will be male, while a cooler nest means that the offspring will be mostly females. Obviously, this also depends on the location of the nest and the climate surrounding it.