The American alligator lives mainly in freshwater swamps, lakes, and bayous in the southeastern United States. Along the Creole Nature Trail All-American Road that traverses the marshlands, warm, sunny days bode well for sightings of an American alligator, which derives its name from the Spanish el Lagarto, or "the lizard." Ranging in length up to 14 feet, alligators can readily be seen lounging on land or drifting along on a slowly moving current. While afloat, it is often only the alligator's beady eyes that break the water's surface. Both its log-shaped body and short, webbed legs are submerged, enabling this seemingly docile reptile to quietly close in on its prey.
Broad of face, with a flat, round snout, this predator feeds on fish, frogs, snakes, turtles, birds, and mammals. A 12-foot alligator can snap its jaws with a crushing 2,115 pounds of force. Yet as vicious as this reptile can be, it fascinates visitors and residents alike. Like most wild animals, alligators shy away from close contact with humans.
When a gator is submerged and you can only see the snout and eyes, the number of inches between them roughly correlates to the overall gators body length in feet.
WHERE TO FIND ALLIGATORS?
The Rockefeller Refuge is probably home to the most abundant alligator populations along the Creole Nature Trail. Most information we've learned about the American Alligator comes from years of research performed at this refuge. Gator sightings are certainly not exclusive to Rockefeller Refuge though! You may also see them sunning along the Pintail Wildlife Drive at the Cameron-Prairie Wildlife Refuge, the Wetland Walkway at the Sabine Wildlife Refuge, or even in the roadside canals.
Gators are cold-blooded, meaning they control their body temperature through external processes such as sunning. In general, alligators are more active when the temperature is between 82º to 92º F (28° to 33° C). They stop feeding when the temperature drops below approximately 70° F (21° C) and they become dormant below 55° F (13° C). During this time, they can be found in burrows (or "dens") that they construct adjacent to an alligator hole or open water, but they occasionally emerge to bask in the sun during spells of warm weather.
- Not too windy
- March to October (not exclusive)
- Between 75º to 85º
For your own safety:
- Do not feed, tease, prod or otherwise provoke the gators. They are real (we promise!) and just like any other wild animal you should never approach or feed them.
- Keep your distance.
- Treat them with respect.
- Keep your pet on a leash.
GATORS VS. CROCS
At first glance gators and crocs appear to be very similar. But if you take a closer look, you will find to that they are quite different. Alligators have wide snouts, while crocodiles have a narrower snout. You will notice that gator mouths show off their vicious top teeth; this is because gators have a wider set upper jaw. Crocs jaws are equally sized, therefore showing interlocking teeth.
Crocodiles and alligators will eat just about anything they can sink their teeth into, from fish to turtles, and even sometimes other gators/crocs. It should be noted that crocs are inherently more aggressive than alligators.
Both crocodiles and alligators possess a great deal of strength and speed, and even on land, these reptiles are able to pursue and overtake prey with relative ease. People who have not been trained to deal with these animals should not make direct contact.