Here’s Why Alligator Populations Are Exploding Across Alabama

gator
© iStock.com/CoinUp

Written by Abdulmumin Akinde

Updated: October 14, 2022

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Back in the 1960s, the population of American Alligators was so depleted that they were on the verge of becoming extinct. A few decades down the line, the boom in their population in the 10 US states they range is starting to astound biologists so much that many people are beginning to wonder why alligator populations are exploding across Alabama and other states. 

In the prime parts of the American Alligator‘s range, such as Texas, Florida, and Louisiana, the boom in population began several years ago. Their population has grown so much in these areas that they have now become a nuisance in some places. In these states, authorities have taken them off the list of endangered species and now allow controlled hunting of these giant reptiles. 

Alabama is in the outlying part of the American Alligator’s range, so the population boom was a bit slower there. However, in the past few years, the population has also grown in these places. In places like South Carolina, the alligator population is now estimated to be as much as 16 times higher than in the mid-1970s. In Alabama, estimates put the population at about ten times more. 

alabama alligator

Estimates say the alligator population in Alabama is now ten times higher than it was in the 1970’s.

©iStock.com/mrolands

Reasons Why Alligator Populations Are Exploding Across Alabama

The alligator population in Alabama is clearly on the increase, and the species is fast becoming a permanent feature of the Alabama wildlife experience. In May 2021, a train struck an alligator on Kauloosa Avenue in Tuscaloosa. A month later, a car struck another large gator on the same road. There have been more sightings like this both by fishermen in the water bodies in and around Alabama and on land.

Alligator populations are exploding across Alabama due to the rigorous application of anti-poaching laws, migration of more of these reptiles to the state, efforts to reintroduce them to the ecosystem, increased sightings during the summer breeding season, and a delay in legalizing alligator hunting.

Each of these reasons has been examined below in addition to helpful pointers on how you can remain safe in the event of encountering the caiman’s North American cousin.

Tightened Enforcement Of Anti-Poaching Laws 

One major factor that has allowed the population of Alligators in Alabama and the other US States is the tightened enforcement of anti-poaching laws in these places. Back in the 1970s, the American alligator was placed on the endangered species list. Prior to that time, hunters actively killed the species for their hide, and they were on the brink of extinction. 

Alligators are naturally excellent at reproducing their population. They lay several eggs. A good number of these eggs stand a good chance of survival given the right conditions. With the restrictions placed on hunting, the market for hides reduced. This allowed their population to naturally increase over the past 50 years. Reports of alligator sightings increased so much that scientists recommended reinstating controlled hunting in Alabama as far back as 2006. 

Given the population boom, the government is considering dropping the endangered or threatened tag on alligators in Alabama. Instead, the reptiles would now be classified as “threatened by similarity of appearance.” With this designation, controlled hunting will be possible. But the government can also reimpose tighter controls without going through a lengthy reclassification process. 

alligator eggs

Alligator eggs can survive under a wide variety of conditions, making it relatively easy for alligators to replenish their population.

©iStock.com/Casanowe

Active Reintroduction 

In addition to restricting hunting, the authorities actively reintroduced Alligators into the ecosystem because they serve an essential purpose. Scientists consider alligators a “keystone” species because they help control the population of many prey species. They also create peat and holes beneficial to other species. For instance, red-bellied turtles that incubate their eggs in old alligator nests. Because of these benefits, the government gradually reintroduced alligators into the ecosystem in the Alabama area. 

In the 1970s, about 50 alligators were introduced to the Wheeler Wildlife Refuge. Many people also relocated alligators from the state’s southern reaches, which has further aided their increase. In addition to these, scientists believe alligators have been migrating into the region on their own as well. The Tennessee River makes it easy for them to navigate from one part of Alabama to the other. 

alligator with butterfly chilling on its snout

Scientists consider alligators an essential species to the overall ecosystem.

©iStock.com/Maryna Rayimova

Seasonal Activities 

Although the population of Alligators in Alabama is clearly on the increase, scientists think it is more of a slow and stable growth rather than an exponential boom. The increased sightings may be as a result of their seasonal activities. 

Alligators are generally more active during the summer, their breeding season. This is probably one of the main reasons people encounter them during these periods. Major rain events and heavy flooding also tend to wash them out of their typical habitats. It explains why you may spot them in the streets and other areas where they typically wouldn’t roam. 

Late Entry Into Controlled Hunting 

Alabama was among the last of the Gulf States to introduce an alligator hunting season. As far back as 2006, biologists determined that the alligator population in Alabama was stable enough to allow limited alligator hunting. However, it wasn’t until recently that these recommendations became actively implemented. 

The state’s late entry into legal hunting of alligators is probably one of the main reasons the alligator population grew to the level it has now reached. It could also explain why alligators in Alabama are exceptionally large. In 2025, a 15-feet long alligator was killed at Millers Ferry, Alabama. It was declared the official world record at the time. Even now, there is still a size restriction on alligator hunting in some parts of Alabama, such as the Lake Eufaula Zone. Here, the minimum length of an alligator that licensed hunters can harvest is 8-foot. 

American alligator chilling

Authorities have recently begun lifting hunting restrictions on American Alligators, as they are no longer considered endangered.

©iStock.com/Joe Pearl Photography

Should You Be Worried? 

Generally, there’s no reason to fret over the boom in the alligator population. Alligators don’t typically attack humans (especially on land). Unlike crocodiles, they try to avoid conflict with humans. Of course, you need to be aware of your surroundings. You should be more careful when you’re near bodies of water or in an area with a recent alligator sighting.

If you’re out fishing late at night or early in the morning, your chances of seeing one are pretty high. They may look a bit like logs in the water. Also, you may spot them as shiny pink eyes in the water if you are out at night. 

An alligator attack on land is rare. Most times, they only attack in response to harassment, so if you ever spot one, the best thing you can do is leave them alone. If you ever spot one, you should call the authorities to have it removed instead of trying to get rid of it yourself. 

Conclusion 

The alligator population in Alabama has been steadily increasing over the past few decades. The boom is a result of a wide range of factors. This includes the introduction of restrictions, gradual reintroduction, and late implementation of controlled hunting, among other factors. Although seasonal hunting is now legal in Alabama, it is unlikely to hurt the alligator population significantly over the next few years.

Up Next

Alligator Population by State – Which US state has the highest Alligator population. Read this to compare figures from state to state.

How Long Do Alligators Live – Alligators have a long lifespan. Discover how old these crocodilian reptiles can get.

Alligator Infested Lake in Georgia – Alabama is not the only state with lots of reptiles. Read about Georgia’s Most Alligator Infested Lake.


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About the Author

Abdulmumin is a pharmacist and a top-rated content writer who can pretty much write on anything that can be researched on the internet. However, he particularly enjoys writing about animals, nature, and health. He loves animals, especially horses, and would love to have one someday.

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