The Sunshine State has over 1.3 million alligators and about 2000 crocodiles. There is not a single body of fresh water in the state that is safe from alligators. It’s probably best to stick to your swimming pool, although you can sometimes find them taking a dip there too. So, why are there so many gators and crocs in Florida?
Florida is the ideal habitat for alligators. Its tropical climate ensures warm weather all year round. The vegetation is lush, food is plentiful, and they have few enemies. Although there are far fewer crocodiles than alligators, they are increasing rapidly. This is because there are laws in place that protect both species.
In the late 19th century, some places in Florida had so many alligators that people would say you could walk most waterways on the backs of alligators, never getting your feet wet!
The excessive population was factual, but I would still take the long way around the water to get somewhere instead of using gators as stepping stones! So let’s take a closer look at these two reptiles and why they are so predominant in Florida.
Why Are There So Many Alligators And Crocodiles In Florida
Seven of the ten most alligator-infested lakes in the United States are found in Florida. That’s besides those that didn’t make it to the top ten list, which consist of lakes that were infested enough to make the list?
Here’s a look at some of the bodies of water in Florida that contain alligators; from the smallest to the largest infestations, they are:
- Lake Poinsett
- Sawgrass Lake
- Lake Okeechobee
- Alligator Lake
- Lake Kissimmee
- Lake George
- Lake Jesup
American Crocodiles are found between Cape Sable in the Everglades National Park and Biscayne Bay and some areas between Sanibel Island and Shark River. They are also residents of Broward County.
South Florida is the only location where alligators and crocodiles live in the same area.
Florida Has A Perfect Climate For Alligators And Crocodiles
Crocodiles and alligators are ectothermic, meaning they regulate their body temperatures from the outside. As a result, these reptiles are cold-blooded and don’t fancy cold climates.
The warm sunshine helps them get their temperatures up, and you will often find them basking in the sun. If they become too hot, they open their mouths to cool down again.
Florida’s summer temperatures range between 88°F and 91°F, with evening temperatures only dropping slightly. The Sunshine State also has high humidity, which may be uncomfortable for humans, but crocs and gators don’t complain much.
Alligators And Crocodiles Love the Florida Environment
Florida is full of swamps, rivers, wetlands, and springs. Alligators live near any bodies of fresh water in this state and may even hang around brackish water sources. Likewise, the American crocodile lives in brackish and freshwater areas, including mangrove swamps and coastal lagoons.
Florida has a rich biodiversity, full of endangered species, but also home to endless varieties of fish, birds, insects, reptiles, and mammals. This means that there is no lack of food for the Floridian crocodiles and alligators.
Alligators And Crocodiles Have Few Natural Enemies
Adult crocs and gators don’t have many natural enemies, big cats, snakes, and people besides each other. However, the young reptiles have many predators, and the mother crocs and alligators keep hatchlings hidden and fiercely protect their young.
Juveniles and hatchlings are vulnerable to large birds of prey, raccoons, big cats, and adult male crocodiles and alligators. So yes, they are cannibalistic sometimes.
Adult male crocs and gators often eat hatchlings and juveniles to control the population. In addition, although females usually make excellent mothers, males are not particularly attached to their young.
During mating season, the adult males can become very territorial and may cannibalize to show dominance.
Law In Florida Protects Alligators And Crocodiles
After World War ll, the immense alligator population diminished radically due to overhunting. Hunters harvested them for their skins, which they exported to Europe. It wasn’t long before the alligators were almost at the point of extinction.
In 1967 they were put on the endangered species but were removed from it twenty years later. The species recovery of the American alligator is a huge success story.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service now classifies alligators as Similarity of Appearance to a Threatened taxon. That may sound like a mouthful, but it refers to the similarity to the American crocodile, which is a threatened species.
Under Florida law, killing or injuring an alligator is a third-degree felony. Similarly, capturing and keeping alligators or their eggs is illegal without the appropriate trapping or farming license. Feeding alligators is also against the law in Florida.
The American crocodile is listed as a Threatened species and is protected by the Federal Endangered Species Act. The recovery of the species from about 300 to over 2000 is another success story.
Crocodiles were listed as endangered in 1975 but are now on the Threatened species list. The same laws that protect alligators apply to American crocodiles.
The Alligator-Infested Everglades
The Everglades is located in the southern tip of Florida and is home to many alligators. Because Florida is such a rapidly developing state, it’s not unusual to find more and more alligators moving into the state.
It is a wetland full of rivers, marshes, and swamps. This protected area is also home to the American crocodile.
It is one of the largest national parks and consists of 1.5 million acres. Everglades National Park is the only subtropical wilderness area in the United States. The park is also responsible for providing the drinking water for more than 7 million Floridians. It also provides other benefits such as; protection from hurricanes and floods, supports the fishing industry, and tourist revenue from annual spending.
This park is full of many different species of animals, including alligators, crocodiles, snakes, turtles, lizards, fish, mammals, and birds.
At the time of this writing, there are over 200,000 alligators living in the Everglades. The number of crocodiles has increased from about 300 to over 2000 in the last few decades.
The alligator and crocodile population continues to grow every year. It is not unusual to find alligators in urban areas such as; canals, golf courses, retention ponds, and swimming pools.
Cool Facts About Crocs And Gators
There are many things you may not know about these reptiles, so here are some cool facts:
- Alligators don’t have glands that remove salt from their bodies and therefore can’t survive in salt water.
- Alligators’ weight can exceed 1000 pounds.
- The sex of crocodiles and alligators is determined by temperature.
- They’re good sprinters but tire easily.
- Alligators can have up to 3000 teeth in their lifetimes. Crocs can have up to 2000.
- Alligator blood is anti-viral and antibiotic but is currently only studied in laboratories and not used in medicine.
The recovery of both the American alligator and the American crocodile are fantastic success stories. These critters survived largely because they are protected by law in Florida.
The Sunshine State also provides the best environmental conditions for these reptiles. They have everything they need and more! If you ask crocs and gators what their problem is, they will look at you with a mouth full of teeth!
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