North American Alligator

The North American alligator was nearly hunted to extinction early in the 20th century, and after almost 20 years on the endangered species list, began to rebound in the 1980's.  Alligators are now a protected species in the U.S., no longer hunted without a permit. 


"Alligator" is a name given originally by Spanish explorers who called them "el legarto", Spanish for lizard.  These reptiles are meat-eaters, eating anything found in the water, including crabs, fish, crayfish, frogs, and snakes.  Alligators in captivity will also commonly eat raw chicken, rats, mice, and rabbits.  Larger "wild" alligators have also been known to eat dogs and young livestock, swallowing all of their prey whole. 

Because alligators can grow to be from 12 to 18 feet long, and can live up to 80 years in captivity, they are not desirable as pets.  Thousands are sold every year in pet stores to face early deaths due to poor care or abandonment.

"Gus" was given permanent refuge at Black Pine after outgrowing his pet store habitat.  The pet store had sold him in June 2002 to a college student who cared for him until moving out of a  fraternity house and into an off campus house that would not allow the owner to keep the alligator.

Gus lived with his owner for three years before returning to the pet store where he was purchased, then later the pet store could not keep the animal due to lack of appropriate habitat space as required by law in Indiana.

InfoBox - Alligator

Status:  Protected.

Diet in wild:  Fish, frogs, snakes, crab, fish, small rodents.

Life span in captivity:  Up to 60 years.

Size:  Average 13 feet, but can reach 18 feet in length.

Native habitat:  Southeastern United States in freshwater lakes, ponds, rivers and wetlands.