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An estimated 5 million American alligators are spread out across the southeastern United States. They occur in southern Texas, parts of North and South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama, but the majority of American alligators inhabit Florida and Louisiana. Roughly 1.25 million alligators live in the state of Florida.
Alligators and their relatives are the last of the living reptiles that were closely related to dinosaurs, and their closest modern kin are birds. These living fossils, that can be traced back 230 million years, live in swampy areas, slow-moving rivers and streams, bogs, lakes, ponds, creeks, canals and bayous, marshes and wetlands. They are opportunistic feeders; adults eat fish, turtles, wading birds, snakes, frogs, small mammals and even smaller alligators they find near the shoreline of their habitat. They hunt for prey underwater and often swallow their meal whole. Alligators are ectothermic animals that cannot regulate their own body temperature. Being ectotherms, alligators do not need to eat much - a 100-lb dog will eat more in a year than an 800-lb alligator.
The Alligator has a strong homing instinct and an incredible ability to navigate. Biologists have discovered that relocating individual alligators of concern is ineffective as they can return home even after they have been moved over 100 miles!
Once a federally listed endangered species, American alligators have recovered. However, alligators face plenty of challenges. Once hunted to near instinction for their hides, alligators today are threatened mainly by habitat loss and encounters with people. The future of the alligator lies in the hands of the people who live around alligators; their support is crucial in the development and implementation of long-term conservation and management of alligators and their habitats.
April 29th, 2013
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