Are There Alligators in Arizona?

Written by Samantha Stanich
Updated: November 8, 2023
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Quick Answer

  • No, alligators are not found in Arizona.
  • Alligators are not native to Arizona even if the state’s environment can somewhat support their lifestyle.

Are you traveling out west? Visiting Arizona? Want to know if there are alligators in the Grand Canyon State? The short answer is No, alligators are not found in Arizona.

Florida Everglades Alligator wild gator

If an alligator is seen in Arizona, it is most likely that someone’s pet escaped.

©Ernie Hounshell/Shutterstock.com

Why Don’t Alligators Live in Arizona?

The only alligator in the United States is the American alligator and though the environment of Arizona supports their lifestyle, they are not in the state. According to the National Parks Conservation Association, the reptiles are native to a large range of southwestern states, but their range doesn’t extend to the Arizona desert. Alligators’ range begins in the coastal wetlands of the U.S. Southeast, as far north as North Carolina and as far west as Eastern Texas. Their favorite spot to live is Southern Florida, including the Everglades.

They love living next to slow-moving freshwater rivers, but they also inhabit ponds, marshes, wetlands, lakes, and swamps. They also prefer brackish environments, meaning a mix of fresh water and saltwater.

Arizona has small pockets of these environments, but it seems the area may be too dry for the American alligator. If they were to live somewhere as dry as Arizona, they need to also live along or near a freshwater body. It seems like the state only has one-half of what a gator needs to make an environment their home. However, if alligator’s environments are compromised, they may look to inhabit the state in the future.

Alligator

Alligators are dangerous and inhabit many southern U.S. waters.

©iStock.com/Cindy Larson

Clem the Alligator

In 2005, Clem the alligator was found in the northern Arizona wilderness. However, the alligator wasn’t born in the wild. His owner got him as a gift and then left him when his land was sold to the Bureau of Land Management. Clem was turned loose at 16-inches long. When he was captured, he only weighed 130 pounds and was 8-foot, 3-inches long. Now, after years in captivity, the gator rebounded and regained natural weight and health. He sits around 600 pounds and is a little over 11-feet. Clem even procreated with another alligator to advance his lineage.

It proves that Arizona can support alligators, just not in ways that other areas can, which is why the reptile stays in other states. Clem most likely survived because his habitat, which extended over 10 acres, was “sort of like a large swamp.”

A closeup grayscale of an alligator in the water

Clem is said to be super cranky and those who tend to him believe he would eat a human.

©Mix Tape/Shutterstock.com

Are There Alligators in Lake Havasu?

The Arizona Game and Fish Department states that most of the time a call regarding an alligator in Lake Havasu is actually a beaver. The most recent sighting in Bridgewater Channel in May 2023 turned up no evidence of a gator in the area. Beavers often live near Arizona’s forest streams, lakes, and rivers. They are nocturnal and can be quite large, weighing up to 70 pounds, making for an easy case of mistaken identity.

Beautiful landscape of Lake Havasu in Arizona

©SNEHIT PHOTO/Shutterstock.com

What Animals Are Found in Arizona?

The Grand Canyon State is home to a wide variety of climates that support many pieces of wildlife from rodents to reptiles, birds, and large predators. Its state reptile is the Arizona ridge-nosed rattlesnake. Found in the “sky island” just where Arizona meets Mexico, this is a small rattlesnake that grows to only 1 to 2 feet in length. It gets its name from the ridged scales along its nose. State parks are also home to the western diamondback rattler. These snakes get their name because of the keratinous rattles at the ends of their tail. They shake their tail when they feel threatened, so make sure you always listen!

The chuckwalla is a type of iguana commonly seen in most of Arizona’s state parks. It’s an herbivore that can grow to 16 inches in length and change color to camouflage itself.

The state is also home to the famous Gila monster. It is known for the lovely patterns on its beaded skin and for being a rare venomous American lizard, but it is difficult for a human to get bit and envenomated. The lizard must hang on and chew for venom to paralyze its prey.

Slowest Animals: Gila Monster

Gila Monsters don’t inject venom. Instead, they have enlarged, grooved teeth in their lower jaw.

©Vaclav Sebek/Shutterstock.com

Where Are Alligators Found?

Alligators are found in 10 states. Florida and Louisiana have the highest populations with over a million alligators between the two states. Southern Florida is the only place in the world where both alligators and crocodiles are known to live in the same place. And Louisiana has the largest American alligator population.

These 10 states are:

  • South Carolina
  • North Carolina
  • Georgia
  • Florida
  • Louisiana
  • Alabama
  • Mississippi
  • Arkansas
  • Oklahoma
  • Texas

The closest states to Arizona for an alligator to enter are either Texas or Oklahoma, and both of these are still hundreds of miles away.

Alligator swimming through clear waters

Alligators are especially fast in spite of their size.

©David Louis Tiffany/Shutterstock.com

Are There Alligators in Arizona Zoos?

Yes. If you are dead set on seeing an alligator in Arizona, visit the Phoenix Zoo. Also, the Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium & Safari Park in Litchfield Park is home to one of only 25 pure albino alligators in the country as well as American alligators. The albino alligator must live in captivity because they don’t have pigmentation for camouflage.

Conclusion

Alligators are not native to Arizona even if the state’s environment can somewhat support their lifestyle. The reptiles are only found in captivity, and if you do see one in the state, you should call the authorities because it is not where it is supposed to be!

The photo featured at the top of this post is © timyee/Shutterstock.com


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