American Alligator, Alligator mississippiensis

Photo © Brandon Sideleau
Dark Green = Present

Distribution (see below for detailed information)
USA- Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas

Red List Status
Least Concern (LC)

3-4 meters; 4.5 meters (maximum)

Habitat destruction and pollution

Notes on Human-Crocodile Conflict
The American alligator has an undeserved reputation as a maneater. Given the sheer number of alligators and humans sharing the same habitat (roughly 1.5 million alligators and 20 million people in Florida alone), fatal attacks are surprisingly rare, with an average of one incident annually. Some years are worse than others- the highest 12 month period resulted in four human deaths (July 2005 - July 2006), while not a single fatal attack was reported anywhere range-wide from 2008 to 2014. Many attacks involve people walking dogs and it is likely that the dog was the initial target in many of these incidents. In addition, many fatalities have involved elderly citizens who are less likely to survive attacks. People swim in alligator habitat on a daily basis in Florida. Therefore, if alligators viewed humans as prey items, deaths would occur frequently.

Detailed Distribution

Distributed in areas of suitable habitat. Locations include Conecuh National Forest, Gulf State Park, and Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge. Small numbers may be found further north, such as in Talladega National Forest near Oxford. An isolated population is found within Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge and nearby waterways around Huntsville in the far northern part of the state. No attacks have been reported over the past decade, though non-fatal incidents have been reported in previous decades.

Present along the Red River and Millwood Lake in the southwestern portion of the state, in White River National Wildlife Refuge and in many other areas. The northernmost known populations are in Petit Jean State Park and Holla Bend National Wildlife Refuge along the Arkansas River northwest of Little Rock. Individual adult animals have been found as far north as Grubbs in Jackson County and the Bona Dea trails and sanctuary in Russellville in Pope County. Only one attack has been reported in Arkansas- a non-fatal incident that occurred in Lake Chicot in 1998.

Widely distributed throughout the entire state and locally abundant. Important areas include Everglades National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve, Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, Ocala National Forest, and many other areas. Alligators are also found in portions of the Keys, including Blue Hole on Big Pine Key. Florida experiences by far the highest number of alligator attacks range-wide, with at least 100 incidents reported over the past decade, resulting in only eight deaths.

Populations are found predominantly below the fall line, though small numbers and individuals may be found further north. Locations include Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, coastal wetlands and islands from Savannah to the Floridian border, Lake Seminole, Chickasawahatchee Wildlife Management Area, and Ocmulgee Wildlife Management Area south of Macon. The species is found at least as far inland as Augusta along the Savannah River in the east and Columbus along the Chattahoochee River in the west. No attacks have been reported in Georgia over the past decade, though they have occurred in the past, including a fatality in Savannah in 2007.

Widely distributed in suitable habitat statewide including the numerous wetlands throughout the lower Mississippi River, Pearl River Wildlife Management Area, Red River, Sabine National Wildlife Refuge, Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge, Upper Ouachita National Wildlife Refuge, and many other areas. Alligator attacks are fairly rare in Louisiana, with only four incidents reported over the past decade, including a fatality in 2021.

Distributed throughout most of the Mississippi River from the border with Louisiana north to Arkansas and even Tennessee. The species is also present in suitable habitat throughout the southern and central portions of the state, with individual alligators being occasionally recorded in northern areas. Some locations include the Pearl River and Ross R Barnett Reservoir near Jackson, Panther Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, Tallahatchie National Wildlife Refuge, and Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge (where a 4.3 meter individual was found in 2013). Attacks are very rare in Mississippi, with only one non-fatal incident reported over the past decade (in Carthage).

North Carolina
Found in coastal areas as far north as Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. The northernmost population is found at Merchants Millpond State Park, which is just over 10 km south of the border with Virginia. No attacks have been reported over the past decade in North Carolina, though small numbers have been reported historically, including two fatalities in the 19th Century (Gum Swamp in 1816 and Trent River in 1868). The most recent non-fatal incident occurred at Greenfield Lake in 2005.

Present in Red Slough Wildlife Management Area in the southeast portion of the state. Individual adult alligators have also been found in Broken Bow Lake (3.5 meter individual in 2010) and Eagletown (3.5 meter individual in 2005). No attacks have been reported in Oklahoma.

South Carolina
Distributed in suitable habitat along the entire coastline, as well as inland in certain areas. Locations include the Waccamaw River, Santee River (including Lake Marion and Congaree National Park), and Savannah National Wildlife Refuge. South Carolina experiences the second highest number of attacks on humans by alligators range-wide, with a higher fatality rate than Florida. Since 2014 there have been reports of 16 attacks, resulting in six deaths. Six of these attacks (including three of the deaths) occurred on Hilton Head Island, a range-wide hotspot for alligator attacks.

Tennessee is confirmed to hold a small breeding population of alligators along the Mississippi River and adjacent Wolf River in Shelby County, near Memphis in the southwestern extreme of the state. No attacks have ever been reported in Tennessee.

Present in suitable habitat along the Gulf coast and far inland in some areas. Locations include Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge near the southernmost portion of its range, Choke Canyon Reservoir, and many other areas. Fringe populations are found in Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge, the Trinity River, and the Red River along the border with Arkansas and Oklahoma. Some individuals are found in the Rio Grande along the border with Mexico, including Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge and a few adults as far inland as Eagle Pass. Since 2014 seven attacks resulting in one death have been reported.