Alligators at Our Long Island Zoo

Long Island Alligators

The once endangered alligator dates back over 65 million years. The only two places in the world where this reptile exists are the southeast United States and China.

In the 1960s, the American Alligator, which usually lives up to 50 years in the wild, was on the brink of extinction because of poachers who killed them in return for high prices from those who wanted to make goods out of their valuable skin. Federal regulations were enforced in 1970 and the alligator population quickly rose to make the conservation effort the most successful in history.

Alligators are quick, agile, and because of their quick bursts of speed, can outrun a horse for a distance of 30 feet. Dubbed “El Legarto” (which means Big Lizard) by European Settlers, these carnivores are known for their short, blunt snout, which is part of a very powerful jaw. Their teeth are conically shaped, made particularly for grabbing and holding as opposed to cutting, which explains why they swallow all of their food (which include fish, turtles, small mammals, and even smaller alligators) whole.

The reproduction process starts when an alligator reaches the length of 6 feet. Once the females have mated, they move to a marshy area to build a nest to lay and guard their eggs, which number on average about 45. The incubation period lasts 65 days and once all of the babies are hatched, they must begin to live in the wild.

The first couple of years before an alligator reaches 4 feet are the most dangerous because they are prey to many other animals; after that period, it becomes a predator reaching lengths of up to 14 feet long and weights up to 1,000 pounds.