The American alligator is one of only two species of alligators in the world, the other being the Chinese alligator. Alligators can be found in all of Florida’s fresh water lakes, rivers, swamps, and drains. But, just how many alligators live in Florida’s Sawgrass Lake?
Located in Pinellas County, near St. Petersburg, Sawgrass Lake is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike. The park offers nearly 400 acres of natural wetland ecosystem complete with a hiking trail, boardwalk, and nature center. But, what are the chances of running into a gator at this place of natural beauty?
Here, we’ll learn a little more about the primeval killing machines that we call alligators before diving into the big question: just how many alligators live in Florida’s Sawgrass Lake? Keep reading to learn the answer, and find out how you can stay safe when viewing one of Florida’s most dangerous predators.
Alligators: The Basics
As crocodilians, alligators are some of the oldest, unchanged reptiles on our planet. They’re closely related to crocodiles, gharials, and caimans. Large gators can eat everything from wild pig to deer, but also eat fish, turtles, snakes, and even birds.
What Do Gators Look Like?
If you’re wondering how many alligators live in Florida’s Sawgrass Lake, than you probably also want to know what gators look like. Alligators grow up to 14 feet long, and may weigh up to 1,000 pounds. They’re covered in dark green scales that resemble armor.
With long, narrow bodies and powerful tails, gators are clearly designed for swimming. But, they have short, strong legs that can also propel them across dry land at a surprisingly fast speed. But perhaps the alligator’s most distinctive feature is actually its head; gators have incredibly strong jaws, complete with sharp, conical teeth.
Where Do Gators Live?
Alligators can be found throughout all of Florida. They’re native to the coastal lowlands of the southeastern United States. Gators live as far north as coastal North Carolina, and as far west as the southern tip of Texas. They’re even found in a few parts of southern Oklahoma and Arkansas.
Locally, alligators favor wetlands with plenty of vegetative cover. This includes trees overhanging the water, thick marshes, and murky water. They occupy many of the same habitats as water moccasins and other, non-venomous, water snakes. Unfortunately, humans favor many of the same habitats, which leads to human-alligator conflict.
Just How Many Alligators Are There in Sawgrass Lake, Florida?
If you’re wondering how many alligators live in Florida’s Sawgrass Lake, then you might be interested to know that no official count exists. That’s right: unlike nearby Lake Seminole, which, according to a recent survey, has at least 278 gators, Sawgrass Lake has no official alligator count. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any alligators in the lake or surrounding wetlands, on the contrary — you’re more than likely to see an alligator when visiting Sawgrass Lake.
Alligators are apex predators; their presence is an indication of a healthy ecosystem. So it’s no wonder that one of Florida’s largest maple swamps has its fair share of gators. Sawgrass Lake functions both as a water control facility, and as a nature park. Though no official number exists, suffice it to say: there are enough gators in Sawgrass Lake to make swimming a bad idea.
Why Are There Alligators in Sawgrass Lake?
When answering the question: how many alligators live in Florida’s Sawgrass Lake?, it’s important to understand why gators live where they do. Alligators are semi-aquatic reptiles that stick to lowland sources of fresh water. They can’t live in saltwater, like saltwater crocodiles, but, they can live in densely vegetated wetlands. Since Sawgrass Lake offers a combination of lake and wetland waters, it’s perfect for gators. Additionally, since the area is protected, there’s plenty of game—like fish, turtles, and even other gators—for the alligators of Sawgrass Lake to hunt.
Can You Hunt Alligators in Florida?
Once driven nearly to extinction by human hunting, alligators are now abundant in Florida. So abundant that there is an actual alligator hunting season in the state. That’s right: by permit, you can actually hunt gators in Florida’s lakes.
Alligator Safety: Tips
We’ve discovered that no one really knows how many alligators live in Florida’s Sawgrass Lake. But, even one gator is enough to warrant safety precautions. When exploring Florida’s natural bodies of water, it’s vitally important to stay out of the water, no matter how refreshing it might look. Also, stay at least 10 feet back from the shore, as gators can propel their bodies far out of the water when attacking. Similarly, keep pets on leash and well back from the shore, as dogs, particularly small ones, fit the alligator’s natural prey image.
- American Alligator
- Alligator Found Outside Florida Elementary School
- Discover the Most Alligator Infested Lakes in Florida
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/Cindy Larson
Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.
- , Available here: https://www.jstor.org/stable/3781695
- , Available here: https://myfwc.com/conservation/you-conserve/wildlife/gators/
- , Available here: https://public.tableau.com/app/profile/donovan.myrie3101/viz/FloridaBullGators/Sheet1