The American alligator is classified as Lower Risk/least concern on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
It is listed on CITES Appendix II.
Red List Category & Criteria: Lower Risk/least concern ver 2.3
Year Published: 1996
Date Assessed: 1996-08-01
The American alligator is found in the southeastern United States, occurring in the states of Alabama, Arkansas, North and South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas, as far west as the Mexican border.
American alligators are less vulnerable to cold than American crocodiles. Unlike the crocodile, which would immediately succumb to the cold and drown in water of 7.2°C (45°F), an alligator can survive in such temperatures for some time without any signs of discomfort. In fact, the American alligator is found farther from the equator and is more equipped to deal with cooler conditions than any other crocodilian.
An apex predator, a fully-grown American alligator is capable of taking nearly all aquatic and terrestrial prey that it encounters. They are opportunistic hunters and take a wide variety of prey, including invertebrates, fish, birds, turtles, snakes, amphibians, and mammals. The coypu, also known as the river rat, are perhaps the most regular prey for adult alligators. Muskrats and raccoons are some of the most commonly eaten species.
The American alligator is the only known natural predator of the panther.
Recently, a breeding population (between 5,000 and 150,000) of non-native Burmese pythons have become established in Everglades National Park. While events of predation by Burmese pythons on alligators and vice versa have been observed, no evidence of a net negative effect has been seen on alligator populations.
Hatchlings mostly feed on invertebrates such as insects, insect larvae, snails, spiders, and worms.
Historically, hunting and habitat loss have decimated alligator populations throughout their range, and whether the species would survive was in doubt. However, the species has made a remarkable recovery. Due to strict conservation measures, and extensive research, it is no longer endangered except in scattered areas of its range. Hunting is allowed in some states, but is heavily controlled. The greatest threat is currently destruction of habitat due to human encroachment.
Alligators have been shown to be an important part of their ecosystem, and are thus regarded by many as a ‘keystone’ species. This encompasses many areas from control of prey species to the creation of ‘alligator holes’ through their nesting activities, which is of great value not only to the alligators, but also to other species of animals, which use them.
Alligators are capable of killing humans, but are generally wary enough not to see them as a potential prey. Alligators are often less aggressive towards humans than large crocodile species, a few of which (mainly the Nile and saltwater crocodile) may prey on humans with some regularity. Most attacks are usually due to provocation or the mistaken identification of humans for smaller prey.
Est. wild population: 5,000,000
Main conservation threats: Habitat destruction and degradation