American Alligator at Circle B Bar Reserve in Florida.

Meet the Amazing Alligator



Introduction  |  Taxonomy, Phylogeny & Etymology  |  Distribution & Population  |  Ecology

Anatomy & Physiology  |  Diet & Digestion  Thermoregulation  |  Reproduction  |  Neonate Care  |  Ethology

Survival  |  Human Conflict  |  Cultural & Commercial Impact  |  Conservation


Prime Observation Locations  |  Bibliography  |  Filmography  |  Suggested Publications  |  References



An alli gator afloat in water reflecting the gold of a sunset.AMERICAN ALLIGATOR

Alligator mississippiensis


Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Reptilia

Superorder: Crocodylomorpha

Order: Crocodilia

Family: Alligatoridae

Genus: Alligator


(Image: istockphoto/LarryLynch)



11. Human Conflict


Headlines dealing with alligator attacks.Twenty-nine humans are believed to have died in hundreds of alligator-related incidents since documentation of them began in 1928. All but three fatalities occured in Florida (two happened in Georgia, one in South Carolina). Human population and development is always growing; meanwhile, legal protection of the alligator allows the animal's numbers to flourish. Hence, there's bound to be conflict, sometimes deadly. The "Staying Safe" section of this site discusses human-alligator conflict avoidance in much detail, so this page will deal with a few surrounding issues.


Florida, it probably comes as no surprise, is the most affected by this reality, with its 19 million residents and nearly 82 million annual visitors sharing the landscape with (and even taking it from) the alligator. The state numbers its 'gator population at about 1.5 million.An alligator crossing a road. You may find edifying the state's documentation of alligator bites on humans .


The commercially desirable 'gator was nearly hunted to extinction by the 1960s. It was only when federal and state governments imposed strict protection laws and when the concept of "sustainable use" was implemented, that the reptile was able to make its dramatic population boom. Sustainable use involves recognizing the economic value of a species and utilizing a system of conservation that preserves commercial interest so long as the species is preserved (see the "Cultural & Economic Impact" section.)



'Why did the alligator cross the road?' Probably because it was in search of resources, such as new watery habitat, and the potential that it provides: food, security, and a mate. 

(Image: istockphoto/EEI_Tony)


The sustainable use model is controversial, ethically unpalatable to those who oppose using animals as commercial resources. Its proponents point out that is has proven a very effective policy of saving many species which hold economic value, from threat of extinction.


The alligator was federally listed in 1970 as endangered and by 1987 was declared recovered but "threatened due to similarity of appearance" to the "threatened" American Crocodile. In Florida, the animal was classed by the state as "threatened" in 1974, and down-listed to "Species of Special Concern" in 1979, owing to its remarkable increase in numbers.


States in which the alligator naturally lives have successfully managed 'gator populations by means of hunts, harvesting and "nuisance" animal programs. Florida and other states in the alligator range have established "nuisance" alligator programs to better manage human-alligator conflict while maintaining protection of the species.  All alligator states except Oklahoma and North Carolina allow controlled hunting of alligators and some permit ranching (harvesting of eggs from the wild). These programs are designed to regulate, not deplete, alligator populations, while contributing to economic interests.


It should also be noted that alligators may be killed by motor vehicles while crossing a roadway, or by the injuries sustained from hooks that may become lodged in the jaws when the alligator attempts to take the bait or lure of a fisherman.



NOTE: A directory of state government wildlife authorities who deal with "nuisance" alligator complaints may be found here.


An alligator killed on a Florida road.                                                                                                             

This image, captured on Highway 60 in Yeehaw Junction, Florida, illustrates one of the ways in which humans and alligators come into conflict. This road, an important traffic artery, cuts through a very rural region and thus is usually rife with roadkill.


A juvenile aligator with fishing hook caught in its jaws.



A less publicized form of conflict involves fishing. An alligator will often pursue a fisherman's lure or bait and be snagged by the hook. Removing the hook can be difficult. The juvenile pictured at left did not survive, even after a veterinarian's surgical effort.

(Image: © Damen Hurd/ Wildlife, Inc.)







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