Along the roads that traverse 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 submersed, 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.
The American alligator lives mainly in freshwater swamps, lakes, and bayous in the southeastern United States.
For your own safety:
Don't confuse these kings of the marsh with crocodiles. Learn the difference between gators and crocs.