The American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis), a member of the Crocodilian family, has become one of the southeast’s most recognizable inhabitants. From Texas to Florida, and everywhere in between, these wetland creatures have become a symbol of the south. Once hunted to near extinction in the early 1900’s, this iconic species was almost lost forever. Today many states, including Mississippi, are working together to preserve these incredible animals.
Alligators are found throughout the state of Mississippi, and all across the southeastern United States. Mississippi enacted, and continues to enforce, several programs and regulations to ensure the health of the state’s alligator population. As a result, it is estimated that there are over 30,000 alligators in Mississippi today.
Where are alligators in Mississippi?
The Alligators can be found all across the state of Mississippi, but are most common in the lower two-thirds of the state. The state’s highest population of alligators are reported in Jackson, Harrison, and Hancock counties.
Alligators are semi-aquatic and are most commonly seen near sources of fresh or brackish water; such as marshes, ponds, lakes, and rivers. They feed on a variety of prey items including freshwater fish, aquatic turtles, birds, and mammals.
Alligators are more commonly seen in the warmer months of the year, when they are most active. Like all reptiles, alligators are ectothermic and unable to control their body temperature.
They rely on the heat of the atmosphere to fuel their metabolism and most bodily functions. Alligators spend the majority of their day basking in the sun and are active hunters after dark.
Mating season for the American alligator occurs in May or June, after several weeks of courtship behavior. Females will build nests along the banks of waterways with sticks and other debris, where they will deposit an average of 30-50 eggs in late June or early July. The eggs typically hatch in mid-August to early September.
They spend the colder months of the year brumating, where they lay dormant in a hibernation-like state and are rarely seen. Alligators often dig burrows for warmth during the winter. In extreme cold, they will submerge themselves in a freezing body of water; leaving only their nostrils above the ice- an incredible and effective survival tactic.
It is not uncommon for alligators to find themselves in inappropriate places like swimming pools, golf courses, and roadways. It is important to report these sightings to the proper state authorities.
These alligators can be removed and transported safely to a suitable environment by trained professionals. This removal and release process ensures the safety of both humans and alligators, and continues the effort to conserve the species.
Are there alligators in the Mississippi River?
There are alligators reported in the Mississippi River, especially in the southernmost portion of the river flowing between Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi. Reported sightings in Mississippi along the Mississippi River are significantly lower than sightings reported along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Alligators prefer slow moving bodies of water, often favoring calmer rivers and streams than that of the great Mississippi River. In these habitats, alligators are considered a keystone species. An abandoned alligator burrow can provide shelter and even collect drinking water for other animals.
Mississippi residents that enjoy outdoor recreational activities, especially waterfront activities, may be more likely to encounter an alligator. If you should find yourself in the presence of an alligator in its natural environment, it is important to remember to never approach them. While they typically do not interfere with humans unprovoked, they are considered dangerous, and can cause injury to humans and pets.
How far up the Mississippi River do alligators go?
Alligators can be found on the west side of the Mississippi River as far north as southern Arkansas, and the northern Mississippi border on the eastern banks of the river. Alligator sightings in Tennessee are rare, but are becoming increasingly common.
Some of the largest alligators on record have been harvested as far north as Arkansas. In 2020, the state record in Arkansas was broken by an alligator with confirmed measurements of 13 feet, 11.5 inches.
Alligators continue to grow throughout their lifetime, and their size can often be a helpful indicator of their age. It is not unlikely an alligator of that size was over 50 years old.
What US states have alligators?
The American alligator, the largest reptile in North America, is found exclusively in the southeastern United States. Their range extends from as far west as Oklahoma and Texas, east to the Florida keys and upwards to North Carolina.
These extraordinary animals were over-hunted in the early 1900’s by demand of the leather industry. In 1967 they were placed on the endangered species list, and by the 1970’s their population numbers began to rise.
Due to multiple state’s cooperation in population control methods, including hunting bans, alligators were widely considered one of the first success stories of wildlife conservation efforts. They were removed from the endangered species list in 1987 and it is estimated over a million individuals live in the wild today.
As population numbers and habitat ranges of the American Alligator continue to increase, we are provided hope for the longevity of this once endangered species. The main threat to alligators today is habitat loss due to urban and residential development of wetlands.