Alex is a female American Alligator (Alligator Mississippiensis), born in 2006. Alex came to us through Butte County Fish and Wildlife. She was found in Butte Creek, either escaping from or discarded by her owner. She is now a permanent resident and animal ambassador in our educational programs and will live out a full and healthy life while receiving excellent care at our facility.

Both males and females have an “armored” body with a muscular flat tail. The skin on the back is armored with embedded bony plates called osteoderms or scutes. They have four short legs; the front legs have five toes while the back legs have four toes. Alligators are carnivorous reptiles. Prey items include: birds, frogs, insects, snakes, turtles, fish and mammals. The teeth of the Alligator are very sharp, and on average there are about 70-80 teeth in their jaws, and are replaced throughout its life by new ones. An Alligator can go through about 2,000-3,000 teeth in its lifetime. The main purpose for the teeth is to hold onto prey items, because Alligators don’t chew their food. They crush their prey with their powerful jaws, and drown them by taking them underwater.

Alligators are found in fresh water such as marshes, swamps, lakes and rivers, whereas their crocodile cousin can be found in fresh and salt waters. Alligators are native to the Southeastern United States: Alabama, Arkansas, North and South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas. State and federal laws heavily protect the American Alligator, as it was once on the brink of extinction. There is one species of Alligator outside the United States, the Chinese Alligator, found in Eastern China along the Yangtze River basin near the coastline, which is critically endangered.

Alligators reach sexual maturity when they’re about 6 feet in length and about 10-12 years old. The female Alligator builds a nest for her eggs, which can measure from 6-10 feet in diameter and 2-3 feet in height. As the summer sun heats the vegetation in the nest pile, it helps to incubate the eggs. The temperature of the nest determines the sex of the newborn Alligators. If the temperature in the pile is above 93℉, the Alligators will be male, and below 86℉ they will be female. When the temperature is between the two, it’s a mix of male and female. Female Alligators are incredible mothers. They help dig out their newborn alligators after they’ve hatched and, gently holding the newborns in her mouth, she delivers them to the water. For the first few years, the mother aggressively protects her young. On average, about 80% of the hatchlings do not survive, falling prey to predators such as birds, raccoons, otters, bobcats, largemouth bass, and other alligators.

Having an alligator is ILLEGAL unless you are licensed. Alligators are not pets and can be extremely dangerous – not only for humans but local wildlife.

American Alligator Facts:

Body Length

Males: up to 18 feet

Females: 12 – 14 feet

Weight

400 – 500 pounds

Incubation Period

60-65 days

Clutch Size

30 – 70 eggs

Life Span

35 – 50 years in the wild

60 – 80 years in captivity

Status

Taken off the Endangered List in 1987 and pronounced completely recovered