How Many Alligators Live in South Carolina?

Written by Brandi Allred
Published: October 25, 2022
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North America is home to just two species of crocodilian; the American alligator, and the American crocodile. There are also a few pockets of spectacled caiman (another crocodilian) living in Florida. South Carolina is home to just one, the American alligator. But, just how many alligators live in South Carolina? Found as far north as North Carolina, alligators are common in many parts of coastal South Carolina, as well as other parts of the southeastern United States.

Here, we’ll discover more about alligators living in South Carolina, including where to find them, and how to identify them. We’ll explore just how many alligators live in South Carolina, and whether or not you can legally hunt them in the state. Finally, we’ll find out which states have the highest populations of alligators, and how to stay safe around these fearsome reptiles.

Alligator Background

Alligators have been on earth at the same time as crocodiles.

©Ernie Hounshell/

Crocodilians, like alligators, first appeared on Earth almost 100 million years ago. They’ve changed little in all that time; alligators are just as deadly today as they were millions of years ago. There are only two species of alligator; the American alligator, and the critically endangered Chinese alligator.

Range and Habitat

Alligators inhabit the lowlands of the southeastern United States. They can be found from Florida to North Carolina, and as far west as the Rio Grande River in Texas. Unlike saltwater crocodiles, alligators do not tolerate salty water and live only in freshwater. They’re present in lakes, ponds, rivers, wetlands, and even golf course ponds.

Size and Appearance

Alligators can grow up to 15 feet.

©Svetlana Foote/

Alligators grow up to 15 feet long and can live over 50 years. They’re typically brownish green, with “U” shaped snouts. When they close their mouths, only their top teeth are visible. Because they spend so much time just under the water’s surface, their eyes, ears, and noses are located on the tops of their heads.

South Carolina’s Alligator Population

According to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, there are an estimated 100,000 alligators living in the state. All of these gators live in the state’s coastal, lowland, and eastern half. Previous to the 1960s, when alligator protections were enacted to save the species from extinction, few alligators were present in South Carolina. But, thanks to decades of protection, there are now plenty of gators in the state. There are even parks, like the Donnelly Wildlife Management Area and the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge, that protect and house large populations of alligators. 

Where Do Alligators Mostly Live in South Carolina?

All of South Carolina’s gators live in the eastern, lowland half of the state, where they inhabit marshes, lakes, rivers, and frequently, golf courses. Lake Marion, South Carolina’s largest lake, is also home to the largest population of alligators among all the state’s lakes.

Which State Has the Most Alligators?

100,000 alligators might seem like a lot, but it’s nothing compared to the populations of gators in Florida and Louisiana. Florida is home to at least 1.3 million alligators. Louisiana has even more, with an estimated 2 million gators spread throughout the state. These large, healthy populations of alligators are all thanks to species protections enacted decades ago. Without them, we might not have any alligators roaming the swamps and rivers of the south today.

Can You Hunt Alligators in South Carolina?

American alligator chilling
You can hunt alligators in South Carolina.

© Pearl Photography

It might seem strange to those of us who see alligators as exotic animals, but, you can actually hunt these monstrous reptiles in South Carolina. Several states have active alligator hunting seasons, as well as alligator management teams. Hunting helps keep the state’s gator population in check, while management deals mostly with nuisance gators. 

Alligator Safety

Now that we know how many alligators live in South Carolina, let’s learn a few easy steps you can take to stay safe in gator country. First, never feed any alligator, as this habituates them to humans, and can make them aggressive. Also, never approach an alligator, or an alligator nest, for any reason. 

If you’re exploring along the water’s edge, be sure to stay at least ten feet back, and keep your pets on a leash at all times. Remember: alligators are ambush predators, so just because you don’t see them, it doesn’t mean they’re not there. Exercise caution any time you enter the territory of these incredible predators, and always maintain respect for alligators as wild, dangerous, beautiful animals.

Up Next

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The Featured Image

Florida man catches a gator
A menacing American alligator slips into Deep Hole where 100 alligators live at Myakka River State Park near Sarasota, Florida, USA.

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About the Author

Brandi is a professional writer by day and a fiction writer by night. Her nonfiction work focuses on animals, nature, and conservation. She holds degrees in English and Anthropology, and spends her free time writing horror, scifi, and fantasy stories.

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