American alligator

Alligator mississippiensis

Family Alligatoridae - reptile

Body elongate; color dark, olive, brown, gray or black, belly off-white, juveniles with yellowish crossbands; snout elongate, broad, rounded at tip; nostrils near tip of snout, protruding slightly and facing upward; upper jaw hides lower jaw when closed; no teeth showing when jaws shut; area in front of eyes smooth, no crest; back with armored imbedded bony plates with knobbed longitudinal ridges; 4 short legs, thick, front feet with 5 webbed toes, rear with 4 webbed toes; tail long (at least as long as the body), muscular, flattened laterally, upper lateral scute-like plates or scales which converge into 1 single ridge; when basking near surface, only eyes, part of head and tip of snout are visible.
Similar Species
The American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) has a tapering snout (except in young) and in adults the 4th lower tooth (each side) protrudes outside upper jaw near snout when jaws are closed. The spectacled caiman (Caiman crocodilus) has a curved, bony crest in front of eyes. Neither the American crocodile or the spectacled caiman are found in Texas (south Florida only).
Freshwater wetlands, low salinity bays
Maximum Size
5 m (16.5 ft)
Other Common Names
gator, common alligator, Mississippi alligator
Previous Scientific Names
Alligators are freshwater animals but will occasionally wander into low salinity bays. Alligators are protected in Texas by restricted public hunts. Regulations for hunting alligators can be found at Alligators of Texas. It is illegal to use a firearm to capture and kill a wild alligator (except the alligator can be killed with a firearm after capture by legal means and methods). Alligators can only be hunted on or from private properties. A valid hunting license is required and alligators can only be captured and killed during the restricted hunting season. Alligators cannot be kept alive. They must be killed as soon as they are captured. Any landowner who has a nuisance alligator on their property should call their local game warden or law enforcement office. It is also illegal to feed wild alligators.




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