The American Alligator

January 11, 2014 • 5:10 pm

by Greg Mayer

Another Florida correspondent sends this picture of several American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) in Oviedo, Florida.

American alligators
American alligators

They’re at a combination bar, gift shop, and wildlife refuge (the kind of place Florida specializes in, I gather!) on the shore of Lake Jesup. Alligators are said to be abundant in the lake, and a few are kept on display near the gift shop. You can still see on the alligators’ flanks some remnants of the yellow stripes typical of young alligators. These look to be somewhere in the vicinity of 7 feet (the one back right is smaller), but that’s just a guess. There are well authenticated records of alligators 19 feet long, but none that big has been seen in a long time.

Like the Brown Pelican, American alligators are also a conservation success story. Greatly depleted by both the draining of swamps and hunting for the leather trade (boots, handbags, etc.) through the 19th and 20th centuries, they received federal protection in the 1960s, and by 1987 they had recovered sufficiently so that alligators are now subject to endangered species regulation only because they can easily be confused with species that are endangered. (In federal jargon, that means they are “threatened by similarity of appearance”.) They are now common in many areas, and hunting/trapping them, and selling alligator products, is once again broadly legal. (Much commercially marketed alligator meat and other alligator products comes from alligator farms, not from wild alligators.) Live alligators, mostly through the pet trade, pop up all over the US.

13 thoughts on “The American Alligator

  1. “endangered species regulation only because they can easily be confused with species that are endangered. (In federal jargon, that means they are “threatened by similarity of appearance”.)”

    I think the problem is that American crocodiles could be endangered by unregulated alligator harvest, not that alligators are endangered by their similarity to crocodiles. Some folks just can’t tell them apart, and others will probably claim they made a mistake and shot the wrong animal.

    1. Yeah, the actual reason given for continuing regulation of alligator hunting really is “threatened due to similarity of appearance”. It’s does mean what you’re saying (because there are a lot of people who can’t tell the difference or will pretend they can’t), even though taken literally it actually means the opposite.

  2. Alligators always look like they know all your secrets; like they’ve just made a veiled threat to expose you unless you play things their way. I figure the “their way” is giving yourself up to be eaten.

  3. Alligators at a place that includes a bar?
    Sounds like a recipe for trouble to me. Except in the alligator-food department that is.

  4. Ah Florida – seen quite a few roadkill gator and always assumed it was deliberate (a 5 foot gator is not difficult to see), but then one day had to slam on the brakes as one made a dash from one side of the road to the pond on the other.

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