- Alligators are among the most dangerous animals in the Mississippi River.
- Alligators found in the Mississippi River and other parts of the United States belong to the American alligator family.
- Alligators in the Mississippi River tend to grow bigger and longer than the ones found in other states because there are stricter laws concerning the hunting of alligators in the Mississippi River.
The Mississippi River is the second-longest in the United States and the fourth-longest in the world. The river runs for over 2,340 miles across ten different states before emptying into the Gulf of Mexico, mixing freshwater and saltwater. Because of its incredible length and depth, the Mississippi River is home to several kinds of animals, ranging from mammals and birds to amphibians, fish, and reptiles.
Seeing as the river is home to many animals of different species, there is bound to be dangerous animals lurking within the depth of the river. Alligators are among the most dangerous animals in the Mississippi River. Alligators of different sizes use the river as a habitat, and as such, it might be considered dangerous for inexperienced fishers or swimmers to go out to the Mississippi River alone. How big do you think these alligators get? What do you think the size of the biggest alligator found in the river is? Let’s find out.
How Many Alligators Can be Found in the Mississippi River?
Alligators are enormous reptiles that belong to the same family as crocodiles. Still, they are only found natively in the southern United States and China (where the alligator is now nearly extinct). Alligators found in the Mississippi River and other parts of the United States belong to the American alligator family. Usually, these alligators prefer to live in the southeastern United States, particularly in places like Florida, Mississippi, Texas, Louisiana, and Alabama. The highest number of alligators in the country are found in Florida and Louisiana, with over a million thought to be found between the two states.
Because alligators like to inhabit freshwater habitats like rivers, the Mississippi River is a perfect spot for these predatory reptiles. Despite the river being one of the easiest spots to find an alligator in Mississippi, there is no saying how many of these reptiles actually live in the river. The state of Mississippi is home to around 32,000 to 38,000 alligators. Because these alligators are easier to spot at the river, it is only safe to say that many of these alligators treat the river as home. However, because the river also runs through ten other states like Iowa and Louisiana, it is easy for alligators from those other states to take shelter in the Mississippi River. As such, the alligator population of the Mississippi River can be anywhere from 30,000 upwards.
Do Alligators in the Mississippi River Attack Humans?
Alligators are generally solitary predators. Although they spend a lot of time in aquatic habitats, these reptiles are also known to roam on land. These animals can easily tear apart many animals, but they tend to avoid interactions with humans. As such, many people think these animals are actually scared of humans. Despite the growing alligator population in the Mississippi River, there has been no record of any attacks on humans in recent times.
Despite this, it is crucial to keep in mind that if and when an alligator decides to attack a human, it will do it fast and very smoothly. When they attack, even on land, alligators can move quickly, reaching up to 30 miles per hour. Even underwater, where they are difficult to spot, they still move at incredible speed. These reptiles can swim up to 20 mph while submerged. Humans can swim five to six miles per hour and run a little over 25 miles per hour, respectively. However, these speeds are records held by Olympic athletes. The average human frequently moves considerably more slowly than this, meaning it will be very easy for a human to become food for an alligator.
Also, the force of an alligator’s bite is above 2,000 pounds per square inch. These reptiles are also common nocturnal hunters, so it is not advised to go swimming in the Mississippi River at night. Although alligators attacking humans in the Mississippi River is mainly uncommon, it is not uncommon to find human remains in their stomachs. Because they are opportunistic feeders, these reptiles would not hesitate to eat a dead human body if they come across one.
What’s the typical life span of an American alligator?
In the wild, an American alligator can be expected to live between 30-50 years. Though endangered, Chinese alligators also average around 50 years. They don’t live much longer in the wild, because aging alligators have a harder time hunting, but their larger size means they need more food to sustain their weight and metabolism. Unfortunately, senior alligators often pass away from starvation. On the other hand, alligators in captivity can live longer, with the possibility of living up to 70 years.
What’s the Biggest Alligator Found in the Mississippi River?
Generally, alligators are large reptiles, but the females tend to be smaller than the males. Because female alligators tend to be slightly smaller than males, they usually grow a total body and tail length between 10 and 11 feet. Most alligators tend to grow as long as eight to 15 feet, and the ones found in the Mississippi River are not any different. Alligators in the Mississippi River tend to grow bigger and longer than the ones found in other states like Florida or Louisiana. This is because there are stricter laws concerning the hunting of alligators protecting the Mississippi River. These laws allow alligators to breed more and grow into larger sizes than alligators living in other states with more alligator hunters.
Several large alligators have been found in the Mississippi River, but the biggest alligator was discovered in 2013. This record was set when Vicksburg resident Dustin Brockman and his hunting party caught a gator that measured 13 feet and weighed 727 pounds. Their record broke the official record that was only set an hour earlier by another team that caught a 723-pound alligator.
According to the record holders, catching a 727-pound alligator was a lot of work. The epic battle between them and the beast took a little over two hours. Dustin Brockman and his group pursued the alligator by motorboat along the Mississippi River. They eventually got close enough to the reptile to crossbow-spear it before shooting it with a shotgun. The team finally killed the alligator around four in the morning but had to wait till around 6:30 am just to find extra hands to help them lift the alligator into their boat. The team that had landed a 723-pound alligator beforehand said it took them over four hours to catch and bag their prey.
The reason both teams hunted at night was that alligators are more nocturnal hunters. As such, it would be easier to spot them swimming around at night, trying to find food. Also, it was easier to see their eyes using a flashlight because of the reflection, unlike during the day when the water covered most of their face and eyes.
What Other Predators Live In or Close to the Mississippi River?
Bull sharks also prowl the depths of the world’s fourth-largest river. Unlike most of its fanged relatives, these requiem sharks are capable of handling both salt water and fresh water and are equally at home in the Mississippi or the Amazon as they are in coastal waters.
Bobcats also lurk around the Mississippi searching for rodents, birds, and the occasional deer. They are also rather fond of snakes too and will think nothing of attacking a venomous slithering adversary.
Black bears are another group of predators that can be found in the Mississippi. In spite of preferring to hang about woodland, they can also be found taking a splash in the river.
Other predators which can be found close by include bald eagles, coyotes, and foxes.
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- Louisiana Sportsman, Available here: https://www.louisianasportsman.com/news-breaker/13-foot-4-inch-760-pound-alligator-taken-in-west-baton-rouge-parish/
- Huffpost, Available here: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/record-breaking-727-pound-gator_n_3859669
- The National Wildlife Federation, Available here: https://www.nwf.org/Educational-Resources/Wildlife-Guide/Reptiles/American-Alligator