One of our state’s most iconic creatures is the alligator. This ancient species is estimated to have existed on the planet for 150-230 million years! That means they lived with the dinosaurs. Our nation’s largest reptile, alligators have a rounded snout and show only their upper teeth when their mouth is closed, unlike saltwater crocodiles which have a thinner snout and show a lower tooth. American alligators inhabit all of Florida, grow up to 18 feet in length and can weigh 450 pounds. They like ponds, lakes, and rivers, but can also move about on land. A female ‘gator builds a nest near water up to four feet high and eight feet across and lays 20-50 eggs. The temperature of the nest determines what the majority of the babies will be – male or female; hotter generally means more males. The little alligators stay with mom for up to two years.

Alligators eat fish, turtles, snakes, birds and many mammals, including an occasional deer. Their varied diet may be one reason that can live 50 years or more.

You can estimate the length of a ‘gator in the water by guesstimating the distance from the back of the nose holes to the forward edge of the eye. Whatever that is in inches is about what the entire alligator is in feet.