American Alligator

Alligator mississippiensis


Alligators are one of the most recognizable species of Mississippi and the southern US. These large reptiles are often encountered in swamps, lakes, ponds, and other various wetlands throughout Mississippi, outside of the northeast quarter of the state. Individuals may also be encountered in coastal marshes and barrier islands, and have some tolerance to salinity when moving between such habitats. When compared to the American crocodile, the alligator has a rounded snout and is generally much darker in color. Adults are dark gray, brown, or olive, while juveniles sport bright gold and orange colors (see below photo). 

Alligator basking on a cool day, Monroe Co. (FL)

Identifying Traits

  • Rounded snout
  • Gray or olive dark skin


Lakes, swamps, marshes


Males bellow and slap the water with their heads during breeding season. Females exhibit protective parental behavior with newly hatched young


Birds, mammals, carrion, fish, other vertebrates

Typical view of an alligator floating, FL
Young individuals basking, Florida
Their coloration can work well in busy swampy habitats to blend in, Tangipahoa Par. (LA)
Alligator from south Mississippi, © Robert Howell