- Alligators are cold-blooded and live in warm areas.
- Ten out of the 50 U.S. states have alligators.
- Louisiana has the most alligators of all of the states, with more than 2 million gators residing there!
Alligators are some of the most interesting animals that live in the United States. Despite the data that shows just how uncommon alligator attacks actually are, these reptiles are often viewed with extreme fear. Thankfully, not every state has a native population of alligators. Still, some do! Today, we are going to compare the states with alligators and see which one has the most. Let’s discover the 10 most alligator-infested states.
Where Do Alligators Live?
Alligators are cold-blooded reptiles, meaning they require external heat in order to regular their internal body temperature. As a result, they can only live where there is sufficient sunlight and heat to warm them up. While they can brumate (a reptile version of hibernation) during cold months, alligators generally stick to areas with water that doesn’t freeze over for too much of the year.
In the United States, only 10 states out of 50 have a native alligator population. While they may occasionally show up in others, they aren’t breeding and living there year-round. Let’s rank these 10 states to see who has the most!
The 10 Most Alligator-Infested States: Ranked
1. Louisiana (2 million)
It may come as no surprise that Louisiana is the most alligator-infested state in the entire US. The massive swampland and warm climate mean that Louisiana is the perfect home for these scaly reptiles. The most recent data shows that Louisiana is home to over 2 million wild alligators across the state, with an additional 1 million located on farms. The state is quite famous for alligator farming and harvesting, accounting for hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue brought to the state.
2. Florida (1.3 million)
The second most alligator-infested state in the U.S. in Florida. Like Louisiana, Florida has a massive area of swampland (the Everglades), and the year-round sun makes for ideal conditions for the gators. Any standing body of water in Florida could house a gator, making swamps, rivers, lakes, and drainage pools all potentially dangerous. Florida is also home to Gainesville, the most alligator-infested city in the U.S.
3. Texas (400,000-500,000)
Everything is big in Texas! When it comes to gators, Texas comes in third for the total population. Texas has 400,000-500,000 alligators within its borders. These reptiles can be found from the Sabine River to the Gulf of Mexico and the coastal marshes near the Rio Grande. Of the 254 counties in the state, 120 have gators.
4. Georgia (200,000-250,000)
Although there aren’t as many gators in Georgia as in the top three states, there are still plenty! Georgia is home to between 200,000-250,000 alligators, primarily in the southern region of the state. In fact, almost all gators can be found south of the “fall line,” a line that travels through Columbus, Macon, and Augusta. Alligators found north of this line were most likely brought there by humans.
5. South Carolina (100,000)
Of the Carolinas, South Carolina is the most alligator-infested state. South Carolina has around 100,000 gators within its borders, primarily in the south and along the coast. Although South Carolina is warmer, on average, than North Carolina, it can still get quite cold. As a result, the populations of gators begin to drop the further north you move. Coastal marshlands around the state are key breeding grounds for these reptiles.
6. Alabama (70,000)
Alabama isn’t well-known for its gators, but they have a total population of around 70,000 individuals! Like the other, more northern states on the list, the only places you can find these creatures are in the southern regions. Most of the gators fall in the lower half of the state, with populations in the northern half being nearly non-existent. Gators in the state prefer wetlands, lakes, rivers, and even a few reservoirs.
7. Mississippi (32,000-38,000)
The home of the Mississippi River has its fair share of gators too! Mississippi is home to just under 50,000 alligators. A few sources claim that alligators can be found in every county of the state, although they aren’t as densely populated as some of the other states on the list. Still, 25% of the entire state’s population lives in the southeastern region.
8. Arkansas (2,000-3,000)
Arkansas has had an increasing population of alligators each year, especially as the temperature warms due to climate change. Currently, Arkansas is estimated to have 2,000-3,000 individuals, with a stable and growing population each year. They are widely distributed through the southeastern and southwestern regions of the state, although densities are quite low.
9. North Carolina (1,000)
While many don’t know it, gators live through many regions of North Carolina. There is an estimated population of 1,000+ alligators that live in North Carolina, with that number seemingly increasing a bit each year. Almost all of the high-density populations of alligators live south of the Albermarle sound, although some individuals have been reported through the entire coastal region of the state.
10. Oklahoma (100-200)
The state that is probably least known for alligator populations in Oklahoma. Oklahoma is home to 100-200 individuals, but they constitute a stable population. Most of the state gets much too cold for gators to survive the winter, but there are some regions that allow for a small population of alligators. The only places that gators live in Oklahoma are the Red and Little Rivers, primarily in around Choctaw, Bryan, McCurtain, and Love counties.
Summary of Alligator Population By State: Ranked
Here is a summary of the most alligator populations ranked by state:
Do Alligators Only Live in the U.S.?
The answer to this question is no! Alligators can be found in places other than the United States. They are native to China, Central and South America, and the Caribbean. In addition, alligators have been introduced to several locations outside of their natural range, including parts of North America, Hawaii, Iran, Japan, the Cayman Islands, and even France. Although they may not be as abundant or widespread elsewhere as in the USA, it’s clear that alligators are a global species with many populations living outside of the US boundaries.
Alligators generally live for around 30 to 50 years in the wild, although they have been known to reach ages of up to 70 or 80. In captivity, alligators can live much longer. Some individuals have been recorded living more than 100 years! Alligator lifespan depends on a variety of factors such as food availability and climate conditions, but the average life expectancy is still quite long compared to most other animals. Alligators also display remarkable resilience against disease and are able to adapt quickly when their environment changes.
Alligator vs. Crocodile: What’s the Difference?
The easiest way to tell the difference between a crocodile and an alligator is by looking at their snouts. Alligators have wide, U-shaped snouts, while crocodiles have long, V-shaped ones. You can also distinguish them by examining the color of their skin. Alligators typically have dark gray or black skin with white or yellow markings, while crocodiles are usually tan in color with darker stripes and spots.
In addition to this physical difference, it’s important to note that alligators primarily live in freshwater habitats such as swamps and marshes, while crocodiles tend to inhabit brackish wetlands like estuaries and saltwater lakes. Furthermore, although both species are carnivorous apex predators that hunt for food on land and in water alike, alligators prefer smaller prey like fish, whereas crocodiles often feed on larger animals such as deer or pigs.
Bonus: Where Can You Find Alligators and Crocodiles Together?
There is only one place on earth where you can find both alligators and crocodiles coexisting in one environment – the Florida Everglades! Alligators can only survive in freshwater – while crocodiles can exist in both fresh and saltwater – often preferring a brackish mixture of both. The hot, humid, swampy atmosphere of the Everglades is the perfect environment for both animals – who actually seem to get along just fine with each other.
Both animals are extremely dangerous and are to be avoided – but the alligators are actually much more docile than their croc cousins. Alligators tend to attack only when provoked or hungry – but crocodiles are known to attack just because someone is near them. Crocodiles are much more active in the water and spend less time sunbathing like alligators. The Everglades is home to more than 1,000 crocodiles and 200,000 alligators.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Thierry Eidenweil/Shutterstock.com
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