Alabama is home to turkeys, black bears, a wide variety of snakes, and yes, alligators. But, how many alligators live in Alabama? As one of only 10 states that play home to gators, Alabama is no stranger to these wild, carnivorous reptiles. In fact, alligators live in approximately half of the state’s fresh waters. However, don’t expect to find them living in the salty waters of the gulf. Unlike saltwater crocodiles, alligators can’t stomach salt water and spend only brief periods of time in brackish water. Lucky for them, Alabama has plenty of sources of fresh water for gators to choose from, including lakes, rivers, and wetlands.
Here, we’ll find out just how many alligators live in Alabama, and where exactly you can find them. We’ll also learn a little more about the species in general.
The American Alligator
There are only two species of alligator; the American alligator, and the Chinese alligator. American alligators are no longer listed as endangered, but Chinese alligators, which live only in the Yangtze River, are critically endangered. Let’s take a look at Alabama’s own native crocodilian, the American alligator.
Habitat and Range
Alligators favor warm, lowland waters, like lakes, rivers, ponds, wetlands, and even golf course ponds and irrigation ditches. Their favorite habitats are those that feature dense vegetation, murky water, and plenty of places to hide. Alligators can be found in the coastal, southeastern states as far north as North Carolina, and as far west as the Rio Grande River in Texas.
Size and Appearance
Alligators aren’t just big lizards, they’re actually ancient predators that have remained basically the same for over 60 million years. Their most distinctive feature is their head, which is long and filled with up to 80 teeth at a time.
To find out how many alligators live in Alabama, it’s important to know how to identify an alligator. In the water, only the tops of their heads and backs remain visible. They’re the only crocodilian in Alabama waters and can grow to a whopping 19 feet long.
How Many Gators are in Alabama?
According to the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, there are around 70,000 alligators living in Alabama today. The state’s large alligator population is largely due to the fact that Alabama first enacted laws to protect alligators all the way back in 1938.
American alligators weren’t actually placed on the endangered species list until 1967. Since then, their populations in all 10 southeastern states have both increased and stabilized. This is particularly true in Alabama, where large numbers of gators can be seen at places like Gator Boardwalk in Daphne, and Alligator Alley in Summerdale.
Where Do Alligators Mostly Live in Alabama?
Now we know how many alligators live in Alabama, but just where can you find them? Alligators are lowland creatures who require both warmth and fresh water. So, in Alabama, they live exclusively in the southern half of the state. However, there are occasional sightings in more northerly latitudes, though the population of gators in the northern half of the state is minimal.
Which State Has the Most Alligators?
With around 70,000 gators, it might seem like Alabama has more alligators than any other state. But, the Alabama alligator population is nothing compared to the gator populations in Florida and Louisiana. Florida is home to 1.3 million gators, while Louisiana boasts a whopping two million alligators throughout the state.
Are Alligators Protected in Alabama?
While still protected under state law, there is now an alligator hunting season in Alabama. Hunters can apply for a hunting permit, though, with only a few hundred given out every year, chances of getting one are small. Alabama prohibits harassment or ownership of alligators, as well as illegal hunting. But, issuing a few hunting permits every year helps manage alligator populations to better keep both humans and gators safe.
Staying Safe Around Alligators
So, you can’t harass, feed, or own an alligator in Alabama. But, just how do you stay safe around these apex predators? Alligators are incredibly adept hunters; they’re more than capable of attacking and killing an adult human. So, if you’re in gator country, it’s best to follow a few simple rules to reduce your risk of attack.
First, don’t try to feed or touch any alligator. If you know there are gators in the water, then stay at least ten feet back from the shoreline. This goes for pets and children as well. Avoid any alligator nests, even if they look deserted—Mom probably isn’t too far away. Finally, if you’re watching alligators from the safety of a boat, remember to never reach your hand out over the water. Alligators can propel their bodies up and out of the water.