Female alligators build large, mound-shaped nests of mud and plants, where the female lays her eggs. The female remains in the area to protect the nest. When ready to hatch, the young alligators grunt from inside their eggs and their mother digs the nest open. The female may even help break the eggs open and carry the young alligators to the water in her mouth.
Alligators are easily confused with crocodiles. How are they different? An alligator's lower teeth fit into pits in the upper jaw, so you usually cannot see them when the animal's mouth is closed. Some of a crocodile's lower teeth are visible. Also, alligators have a broad snout, while crocodiles have a narrow snout.
Alligators rarely attack humans. When this occurs, it is usually in defense of a nest or because public feeding has caused them to lose their fear of people.
Alligators were once very common throughout coastal areas of the southeastern U.S. In the early 1970's, the alligator was declared a federally endangered species due to widespread hunting for hides. From 1930-1940, for example, over one million alligators were killed in Florida alone. Although alligators have become more common than they were, they are still considered threatened and are protected by federal laws.
Alabama now has about 35,000 alligators, most of which are found in the Mobile Delta. At one time, alligators were found in the Cahaba River as far north as Marion. According to the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, there have been only five recorded alligator attacks on people in Alabama, with no fatalities.
Scientific name: Alligator mississippiensis RANGE: Coastal plains of the southeastern U.S. HABITAT: Swamps, marshes, lakes and rivers DIET: Fish, turtles, birds and small mammals YOUNG: About 40 eggs that hatch in 60-100 days. Hatchlings are 8-10 inches long.