Alligators have famously armored hides and teeth that look like they could punch through a tank. They’re found only in the southeastern United States, with the exception of the highly endangered Chinese alligator. American alligators and Chinese alligators are the only two species of alligator in the world, but they’re not the only crocodilians out there. The Crocodilia order of reptiles includes true crocodiles (like Nile and saltwater crocodiles), caimans, false gharials, and gharials. Florida is home to a staggering number of alligators, but just how many alligators live in Florida?
Here, we’ll find out more about the American alligator, including where they live and what they look like. Then, we’ll take a deep dive into just how many gators actually live in Florida and whether or not it’s safe to live among these prehistoric hunters. Finally, we’ll discuss a few steps you can take to avoid having a negative encounter with an alligator.
Read on to learn just how many alligators live in Florida!
American Alligator Profile
American alligators are common throughout the coastal lowlands of the southeastern United States. They’re common in Florida, where they dine on everything from fish, frogs, and turtles to snakes, small mammals, and even deer.
Range and Habitat
Alligators live only in fresh waters, like lakes, rivers, wetlands, and ponds. They’re a frequent sight in golf course ponds. In Florida, alligators inhabit nearly every source of fresh water. They can be found throughout the state and live as far north as North Carolina, and as far west as the Rio Grande River in Texas.
Size and Appearance
Before we answer the question: how many alligators live in Florida? Let’s take a look at what these apex predators look like, and how big they grow. Alligators might not be the largest crocodilians out there, but they can still grow to monumental proportions. Adult alligators can reach up to 19 feet long. They’re characterized by scaly, armor-like hides, “U” shaped snouts, and conical teeth. When a gator closes its mouth, only the top teeth remain visible. In contrast, when crocodiles close their mouths, several bottom teeth poke out.
Florida’s Alligator Population
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, there are an estimated 1.3 million alligators in Florida. In fact, there are so many alligators in Florida that the state has established a Statewide Nuisance Alligator Program (SNAP) to deal with dangerous or nuisance gators. Alligators are a fact of life in Florida; they can be found in just about all of the state’s fresh waters.
Where Do Alligators Live in Florida?
Now that we’ve answered the question of how many alligators live in Florida, let’s take a look at where most gators reside. Lake Okeechobee, in south-central Florida, is home to the state’s largest surveyed population of gators. There are estimated to be at least 10,000 alligators living in the lake, and that’s just one of Florida’s lakes! Other alligator-infested lakes include Orange Lake, Lake George, Lake Jesup, and Lake Kissimmee.
Does Florida Have the Most Alligators?
1.3 million sounds like a lot, but Florida is actually second in terms of the state with the highest alligator population. Number one on the list is Louisiana, with an estimated two million gators. Together, Florida and Louisiana far surpass any other state when it comes to alligator population. Like Florida, the entirety of Louisiana is home to these massive reptiles.
Is It Safe To Live in Florida With Alligators?
Despite the huge number of alligators living in Florida, the state is still safe for human habitation. However, the increasing human population, and increasing human habitation in heavily alligator-populated areas, have led to attacks. Many believe that alligator attacks are actually on the rise in Florida, and this may be due to increased human-alligator proximity. So, if you’re planning on taking a trip to Florida, be sure to read up on alligator safety.
The most important rule, when it comes to staying safe around alligators, is to remember to treat them with respect and caution. Alligators may be cute when they’re little, but adults can easily injure and even kill humans and pets.
Never approach an alligator or its nest. Females will defend their young, and, as opportunistic ambush predators, alligators will attack if they think they can win a meal. You should never feed alligators, or allow pets to stray too close to the water. In fact, experts generally recommend staying at least ten feet back from any alligator-infested waters.
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The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/Joe Pearl Photography
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- Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Available here: https://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/wildlife/alligator/snap/
- Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Available here: https://www.wlf.louisiana.gov/species/detail/american-alligator#:~:text=Louisiana%20and%20Florida%20have%20the,common%20in%20our%20coastal%20marshes
- Britannica, Available here: https://www.britannica.com/animal/alligator
- The Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, Available here: https://srelherp.uga.edu/alligators/allmis.htm