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Oct. 2, 2022
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  • 10:00 AM Reptile Chat
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  • 9:00 AM Gates Open
  • 5:00 PM Last Entry
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African Veldt
  • 11:00 AM Giraffe Feeding Adventure (Seasonal, March-October)
  • 1:30 PM Giraffe Keeper Chat
  • 2:00 PM Rhino Keeper Chat
  • 2:30 PM Elephant Feeding & Chat
Animals of the Night
  • 1:00 PM Animals of the Night Keeper Chat
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China
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Herpetarium
  • 10:00 AM Reptile Chat
Northwest Passage
  • 11:00 AM Sea Lion Show
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Once Upon a Farm
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  • 3:00 PM Penguin Feeding
Primate Canyon
  • 1:15 PM Primate Keeper Chat
Teton Trek
  • 1:00 PM Bear feeding
Tropical Bird House
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Zambezi River Hippo Camp
  • 10:30 AM Hippo Chat
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Your Passport to

Herpetarium

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San Esteban Chuckwalla

San Esteban Chuckwalla A.K.A. Piebald Chuckwalla or Pinto Chuckwalla  (Sauromalus varius)

Range: San Esteban Island, located in the Gulf of California

Habitat: Dry, rocky deserts, desert woodlands, and scrublands. All habitats are characterized by the presence of creosote, prickly pear, and kittlebush, which are the main sources of food for chuckwallas.

Size/Description: San Esteban Chuckwallas are the largest of five species of Chuckwallas, which are part of the Iguana family. A large adult may be up to 24 inches long and weigh up to 3 pounds! Male chuckwallas are typically larger and more brightly colored than females.

Wild diet: Blossoms from creosote and prickly pear plants, kittlebush leaves, and other leaves, fruits, buds, seeds, as well as the occasional insect. Did you know… Chuckwallas don’t ever drink! They get all of their water from their food. This is an adaptation to living in a dry, desert environment.

Reproduction: Courting and mating occur in the Spring. Males will become brighter and begin competing for territories by head bobbing, mouth gaping, and push-ups. Females enter the males' established territories for mating and will lay 5 to 16 eggs in an underground nest cavity. These eggs will hatch after an incubation period of 90 days. Hatchling chuckwallas emerge from their nests in late summer to early fall and there is no parental care. Adult males can reproduce annually, but females typically only mate every 2 to 3 years.

Predators: Birds of prey, coyotes, and rattlesnakes.

Defense: Chuckwallas rely on their camouflage to avoid detection by predators. They also have excellent peripheral vision, which allows them to detect threats early. If they feel threatened, they will run to the nearest rock pile and hide in the crevices. They can also inflate their bodies by taking a deep breath, and wedge themselves into those rock crevices so that they are nearly impossible to get out. As a last measure of defense, the chuckwalla will use its tail as a whip to try and deter a predator.

Other Threats: San Esteban chuckwallas are the rarest of the chuckwallas, and have been listed as endangered since 1980. Collection for the pet trade has taken a toll on their populations. They also face habitat destruction due to the introduction of invasive species (like cats, rodents, and livestock) which may prey on the chuckwallas directly, or compete for food.

Lifespan: 25+ years

At the Memphis Zoo: The Memphis Zoo is home to three San Esteban Chuckwallas. The male, named "Darwin", was hatched at the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum on October 17, 2010, and came to the Memphis.

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Reticulated Python

The reticulated python (Malayopython reticulatus) is a snake species native to South and Southeast Asia.   Along with the Anaconda, they are the largest snakes in the world. The distinction is that these pythons attain a greater length, with apparently valid records of wild individuals over 20 feet in length and a maximum record length of 32 feet! They inhabit tropical rainforests, and are heavily dependent on water so they are often found near small rivers or ponds.  Pythons are nonvenomous snakes so they don’t have any venom and they are very seldom known to bite. However, they are constrictors and will wrap around a person or animal and suffocate them. This has been reported on many occasions to happen to unaware humans. This snake is an excellent swimmer, has been reported far out at sea and has colonized many small islands within its range.

As with all pythons, the reticulated python is an ambush hunter. usually waiting until prey wanders within strike range before seizing it in its coils and killing by constriction.  The reticulated python is among the few snakes that prey on humans. Attacks on humans are not common, but this species has been responsible for several reported human fatalities, in both the wild and captivity.  There are now two documented cases of the reticulated python consuming humans. Both occurred in Indonesia, one in March 2017, and one in June 2018. Both snakes were 23 feet in length and were killed, revealing the bodies inside. 

- The main predator of the reticulated python is the king cobra (Ophiophagus hannah), which is found in many of the same localities as the reticulated python.

- The longest reticulated python was 32 feet in length and weighed 350 pounds.

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Milk Frog

Milk frogs are large frogs that are native to the Amazon Rainforest. These frogs are named after the milky white poisonous substance they excrete when threatened.
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Galapagos Tortoise

Galapagos TortoiseChelonoidis nigra

Galapagos tortoises are a species of extremes – they can be some of the largest and longest-living tortoises in the world.  They can weigh up to 500 pounds and have a body span of 4 feet or more.  Although these animals are very heavy, their shell is not the biggest culprit. The shell is made up of honeycomb shaped air chambers.

The word “Galapagos” comes from the old Spanish word “galapago,” which the original explorers used to mean “saddle” due to the shape of the tortoise's shells.

Humans walk at an average speed of 2.8 miles per hour, while a Galapagos tortoise moves at a rate of .16 miles per hour, which means it would take a single tortoise six hours to walk one mile. When Charles Darwin visited the islands in 1835 there were 15 different types of giant tortoises in the Galapagos. Now, there are only 11 kinds, and some of these are on the brink of extinction.

Range: Galapagos Islands west of the Ecuadorian mainland.

Habitat: Their habitats range from hot, dry, volcanic terrain, to lush green vegetation, depending on which Galapagos Island you find them on. They also vary in appearance depending on the island you find them. The tortoises living on the dryer, hotter islands have a more saddle-backed shell, while the tortoises living in more lush green vegetation have a more domed shell.

Size/Description: These are the largest living tortoise species, living to over 100 years, and weighing up to 900 pounds.

Wild diet: Fruits, vegetables, variety of grasses and cacti.

Reproduction: Mating occurs at any time of year but is more frequent in the months of February and June. Females dig nests about 12 inches deep in dry sandy coastal areas. She then lays up to 16 round, hard-shelled white eggs. Once the nest is covered, the female will leave the nest to let it incubate in the sun. The sex of the babies can be determined by the temperature at which they are incubated. Higher temps, 88 degrees and above, produce more females while lower temps, 82 degrees and under, produce more males. Depending on how hot the nest is incubated, it can take 4 to 8 months for the eggs to hatch.

Predators: The Galapagos Hawk is the biggest predator on the islands. Feral pigs, cats, dogs, and black rats are also predators to baby tortoises. As adults, humans are their biggest predator due to over collecting for their meat and the exotic pet trade.

Defense: They have hard shells to help protect them from the elements and predators.

Other Threats: Over collecting by humans for their meat and the exotic pet trade, as well as habitat loss are some other threats they face in the wild. Their conservation status in the wild is listed as endangered. The Galapagos tortoise is now strictly protected on the islands, making it illegal to collect them for food, pets, or any other animal trades.

At the Memphis Zoo: Here at the zoo we currently have 3 large males (all brothers) that spend the summers in the tortoise lots by the Dragon's Lair. We have Frank, Al and Fred. They came to the zoo on December 3rd, 2016. They were hatched in September 1992.

Quick Facts

Quick Facts

Did you know that when two male Galapagos tortoises ''fight'', they will glare at each other with their mouths open and stand as tall as they can with their necks stretched as far as they can stretch? The tortoise that stands the tallest is the winner.

Quick Facts

Did you know that the Galapagos tortoise cannot leave it's shell? Unlike the cartoons, the tortoise's shell is connected to their ribs, making it impossible for them to leave their shell.

Quick Facts

Did you know that the Galapagos tortoise cannot leave it's shell? Unlike the cartoons, the tortoise's shell is connected to their ribs, making it impossible for them to leave their shell.

Quick Facts

Did you know that the Galapagos tortoise can go up to a year without eating?

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Burmese Python

Burmese Python Python molurus bivittatus

Burmese pythons are mainly found in the rainforests of Southeast Asia and have been seen in Pakistan to Indonesia though not in the Philippines.

Range: Burmese pythons are native to Southern and Southeast Asia.  They have been introduced and are considered invasive in the Florida.

Habitat: Burmese pythons are mostly found in jungles and marshlands. They are never far from a water source.

Size/Description: Burmese pythons are one of the largest snakes in the world.  Wild individuals can reach 16 feet long and 200 pounds.  Females are slightly longer and heavier than males, but both sexes have the same dark coloration with brown rectangular blotches down their body.

Wild diet: The Burmese python's diet consists mostly of small mammals and birds. They kill by biting and constricting their prey until it succumbs.  Prey items are then swallowed whole.

Reproduction: Burmese pythons tend to be a solitary species and are usually found in pairs only in the spring when mating. Females lay clutches of up to 100 eggs in late spring. The female pythons remain with the eggs, wrapping around them and shivering her muscles.  This behavior raises the ambient temperature surrounding the eggs by several degrees. Once incubated for 60 to 90 days, the hatchlings use their egg tooth to cut out and the mother python leaves the nest.

Predators: Burmese pythons are preyed upon by tigers, king cobras, and birds of prey.

Defense: Burmese pythons will bite if seriously threatened.  While they do not have fangs, they do have many rows of short curved teeth used to hold onto their prey. 

Other Threats: Burmese pythons are listed as vulnerable.  Their numbers are dropping primarily due to habitat destruction, hunting, and being captured for the pet trade.

Lifespan: 20+ years

About the Memphis Zoo Burmese Python

Our Burmese python is named Elmo and came to us from a private collection in 2012.  He is nearly 16 feet long and weighs around 100 pounds. You can see him on display in the herpetarium and on occasion, sunning with his keepers just outside the west doors of the herpetarium.

Quick Facts

Quick Facts

Burmese pythons released in southern Florida have caused terrible destruction of native animals and birds and even an occasional alligator.

Quick Facts

A Burmese python female can lay as many as 100 eggs with the average clutch being about 35 eggs. Unlike most other snakes, the female coils around the clutch and stays with the eggs until they hatch.

Quick Facts

As adults, they can only slither at about 1 mph.

Quick Facts

Highly developed heat-sensing pits along the upper lip are used to help stalk and hunt their prey. These snakes have poor eyesight and find prey using chemical receptors in their tongue and heat sensors along their jaw. Once found, the prey is constricted then swallowed whole thanks to the stretchy ligament in the python’s jaw.

Quick Facts

Burmese pythons are excellent swimmers. They can submerge and hold their breath for up to 30 minutes!

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Bell's Horned Frog

The Bell's Horned Frog is a very large frog native to South America. An adult frog grows to be up to 5 inches wide and weigh as much as 1 pound. These frogs are very inactive; they spend most of their time sitting and waiting for prey to approach.
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Azure Poison Dart Frog

These frogs are found in the Sipaliwini savanna of southern Suriname. Blue dart frogs are commonly found in warm humid rainforest areas near small streams. Blue dart frogs weigh roughly 3/10ths of an ounce and grow to 2 inches in length. Females are slightly larger and longer than males. Both sexes display highly variable color patterns.Blue dart frogs eat a variety of small insects including ants, fruit flies, termites, young crickets, and tiny beetles. The toxic compounds needed to produce their poison are found in their wild diet, specifically ants. Blue dart frogs reach sexual maturity by their first year. Males find a place to perch, usually a rock or leaf, and call to attract the females. Females will lay five to six gelatinous eggs after a courtship with a male. Although the female occasionally will help, the male is commonly the caretaker of the eggs for their 10–18-day development. At hatching, the tadpoles wriggle onto their father’s back and are carried to a small rainwater pool often in a bromeliad plant. By twelve weeks old, the tadpole fully metamorphoses into a small froglet and leaves the water. Blue dart frogs have no predators as adults due to being extremely toxic, but often eaten as tadpoles by other amphibians, reptiles, and invertebrates.The bright colors in the blue dart frog are a type of aposematism. This warns predators of their toxic nature and discourages attacks. Blue dart frogs are listed as least concern, but their threats include deforestation and their removal for the international pet trade. 4-6 years in the wild, 10 years in captivity. We currently have three adult blue dart frogs on exhibit in the herpetarium as well as 11 of their offspring. We also display two other species of dart frog.The atterns on each frog are distinct like human fingerprints. In captivity, these frogs are non-toxic. They lack the toxic substances found in their wild diet.Males often call in more than one female. In these cases, the females fight, with the winner starting the courtship ritual with the male.

Quick Facts

Fun Facts

Males often call in more than one female. In these cases, the females fight, with the winner starting the courtship ritual with the male.

Fun Facts

In captivity, these frogs are non-toxic. They lack the toxic substances found in their wild diet.

Fun Facts

Patterns on each frog are distinct like human fingerprints.

At the Memphis Zoo

We currently have three blue dart frogs on exhibit in the herpetarium. We also display two other species of dart frog.

Lifespan

4-6 years in the wild, 10 years in captivity

Other Threats

Blue dart frogs are listed as least concern, but their threats include deforestation and the removal for the international pet trade.

Defense

The bright colors in the blue dart frog are a type of aposematism. This warns predators of their toxic nature and discourages attacks.

Predators

Blue dart frogs have no predators as adults due to being extremely toxic, but often eaten as tadpoles by other amphibians, reptiles, and invertebrates.

Reproduction

Blue dart frogs reach sexual maturity by their first year. Males find a place to perch, usually a rock or leaf, and call to attract the females. Females will lay five to six gelatinous eggs after a courtship with a male. Although the female occasionally will help, the male is commonly the caretaker of the eggs for their 10-18 day development. At hatching, the tadpoles wriggle onto their father’s back and are carried to a small rainwater pool often in a bromeliad plant. By twelve weeks old, the tadpole fully metamorphoses into a small froglet and leaves the water.

Wild Diet

Blue dart frogs eat a variety of small insects including ants, fruit flies, termites, young crickets, and tiny beetles. The toxic compounds needed to produce their poison are found in their wild diet, specifically ants.

Size/Description

Blue dart frogs weigh roughly 3/10ths of an ounce and grow to 2 inches in length. Females are slightly larger and longer than males. Both sexes display highly variable color patterns.

Habitat

Blue dart frogs are commonly found in warm humid rainforest areas near small streams.

Range

These frogs are found in the Sipaliwini savanna of southern Suriname.

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Axolotl

Axolotl: Amystoma mexicanum

Axolotls, also known as the Mexican walking fish, are rare salamanders that never truly grow up and leave their larval features behind. They spend their lives in the water are found in the freshwater lake systems of central Mexico.

The species was originally found in several lakes underlying Mexico City. The axolotl is only native to Lake Xochimilco and Lake Chalco in the Valley of Mexico. Lake Chalco no longer exists because it was drained as a flood control measure, and Lake Xochimilco remains a remnant of its former self and is primarily made up of canals.The axolotl inhabits still-water lakes where the water temperature rarely rises above 68° F.Axolotls are unusual among amphibians because they reach adulthood without going through metamorphosis. Instead of developing lungs and moving onto land, the adults remain aquatic and keep their gills. They have wide heads and lack eye lids. They also have small, underdeveloped limbs with long, thin digits on the ends. Axolotls have vestigial teeth that are hard to see. This is because their adult teeth would have developed during metamorphosis. Axolotls are carnivorous. They hunt small prey such as worms, insects, and small fish. Axolotls locate food by smell. When they sense their prey, they will quickly suck the food into their mouth.The egg of an axolotl has visible feathery gills and a dorsal tail. Hatching takes place two to three weeks after the female axolotl releases the eggs onto plants. Females can normally breed again once their previous eggs are laid. The most common predators of the axolotl are birds that live near bodies of water such as storks and herons. However, in recent years large fish have been introduced to the lakes and channels of Mexico City and these fish find the axolotls to be an easy meal. An axolotl really has no defenses mechanisms other than their ability to hide and their speed. Their gills are more vulnerable outside of their body and their body is soft which leaves them vulnerable. When they feel they are in danger, they will dart through waters at fast speeds to hopefully avoid being caught by a sharp beak or fish.The urbanization in Mexico City and resulting water pollution has affected the axolotl’s native range as well as the introduction of invasive predators in the lakes.They live for about 15 years.

Quick Facts

Quick Facts

A female axolotl can lay up to 400 eggs each gestation period.

Quick Facts

Although Axolotls do not leave their larval state, they are able to metamorphose into an adult salamander if their habitat were to dry up.

Quick Facts

Axolotls can re-grow missing tissue when they are wounded. They can even regenerate entire limbs in a period of months.

Quick Facts

Axolotls are over 1,000 times more resistant to cancer than other mammals.

Lifespan

15 years

Other Threats

The urbanization in Mexico City and resulting water pollution has affected the axolotl’s native range as well as the introduction of invasive predators in the lakes.

Defense

An axolotl really has no defense mechanisms other than their ability to hide and their speed. Their gills are more vulnerable outside of their body and their body is soft which leaves them vulnerable. When they feel they are in danger, they will dart through waters at fast speeds to hopefully avoid being caught by a sharp beak or fish.

Predators

The most common predators of the axolotl are birds that live near bodies of water such as storks and herons. However, in recent years large fish have been introduced to the lakes and channels of Mexico City and these fish find the axolotls to be an easy meal.

Reproduction

The egg of an axolotl has visible feathery gills and a dorsal tail. Hatching takes place two to three weeks after the female axolotl releases the eggs onto plants. Females can normally breed again once their previous eggs are laid.

Wild Diet

Axolotls are carnivorous. They hunt small prey such as worms, insects, and small fish. Axolotls locate food by smell. When they sense their prey, they will quickly suck the food into their mouth.

Size/Description

Axolotls are unusual among amphibians because they reach adulthood without going through a metamorphosis. Instead of developing lungs and moving onto land, the adults remain aquatic and keep their gills. They have wide heads and lack eyelids. They also have small, underdeveloped limbs with long, thin digits on the ends. Axolotls have vestigial teeth that are hard to see. This is because their adult teeth would have developed during metamorphosis.

Habitat

The axolotl inhabits still-water lakes where the water temperature rarely rises above 68° F.

Range

The species was originally found in several lakes underlying Mexico City. The axolotl is only native to Lake Xochimilco and Lake Chalco in the Valley of Mexico. Lake Chalco no longer exists because it was drained as a flood control measure, and Lake Xochimilco remains a remnant of its former self and is primarily made up of canals.

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American Alligator

American alligators are found, mostly, in the Southeastern United States. This can be as far north as Virginia and North Carolina and as far west as Texas, but they are mostly found in Florida – specifically, Everglades National Park. American alligators inhabit swamps, streams, rivers, ponds, and lakes. They prefer fresh water, and may occasionally stray into brackish water, but are less tolerant of salt water than crocodiles. In the winter, American alligators den underneath banks or clumps of trees. When the water begins to freeze, they go into brumation and stick their snout above the surface of the water so they can breathe above the ice. In the summer, males generally prefer open water, while females tend to remain in the swamps to construct nests and lay their eggs. The American alligator is a relatively large species of crocodilian. On average, it is the second-largest species in the family Alligatoridae. Weight varies considerably depending on length, age, health, season, and available food sources. American alligators from the northern end of their range tend to reach smaller sizes. In mature males, most specimens grow up to about 11 ft in length and weigh up to 790 pounds. In females, the mature size is normally around 8 ft with a body weight up to 200 lbs. Adult American alligators may be olive, brown, gray, or black with cream-colored undersides and broad snouts. When the jaws are closed, the edges of the upper jaws cover the lower teeth. American alligators are apex predators. They are opportunists and their diet is determined largely by both their size and age and the size and availability of prey. Most American alligators eat a wide variety of animals, including invertebrates, fish, birds, turtles, snakes, amphibians, and mammals. Once an American alligator reaches full size, any animal living in or near the water is potential prey. The breeding season begins in the spring. Both males and females bellow loudly by sucking air into their lungs and blowing it out in deep-toned roars to attract mates and claim territory. Large bellowing choruses commonly initiated by females and continued by males. After mating, females will lay 20 to 50 eggs and cover them with vegetation. The temperature the eggs develop at will determine their sex. When the babies begin to hatch, their calls start and the mother quickly digs them out and carries them to the water in her mouth. Snakes, wading birds, osprey, raccoons, otters, large bass, garfish, and even larger alligators will prey on young alligators. Once an alligator reaches about 4 feet in length its only real predators are humans. As human populations increase and housing in low-lying areas grows, encounters with American alligators become more common. American alligators with take a stance with an open mouth as a warning. Their tail is primarily used for swimming but can also be used as a weapon of defense when an alligator feels threatened. Alligators can travel very quickly in water and are generally slow-moving on land, but can lunge short distances very quickly. Historically, hunting and habitat loss have affected American alligator populations. This species gained protection under the Endangered Species Act with allowed the species to recover in many areas where it had been affected. In 1987, the USFWS removed the animal from the endangered species list, as it was considered to be fully recovered. 

Quick Facts

Other Threats

Historically, hunting and habitat loss have affected American alligator populations. This species gained protection under the Endangered Species Act with allowed the species to recover in many areas where it had been affected. In 1987, the USFWS removed the animal from the endangered species list, as it was considered to be fully recovered.

Defense

American alligators with take a stance with an open mouth as a warning. Their tail is primarily used for swimming but can also be used as a weapon of defense when an alligator feels threatened. Alligators can travel very quickly in water and are generally slow-moving on land, but can lunge short distances very quickly.

Predators

Snakes, wading birds, osprey, raccoons, otters, large bass, garfish, and even larger alligators will prey on young alligators. Once an alligator reaches about 4 feet in length its only real predators are humans. As human populations increase and housing in low-lying areas grows, encounters with American alligators become more common.

Reproduction

The breeding season begins in the spring. Both males and females bellow loudly by sucking air into their lungs and blowing it out in deep-toned roars to attract mates and claim territory. Large bellowing choruses commonly initiated by females and continued by males. After mating, females will lay 20 to 50 eggs and cover them with vegetation. The temperature the eggs develop at will determine their sex. When the babies begin to hatch, their calls start and the mother quickly digs them out and carries them to the water in her mouth.

Wild Diet

American alligators are apex predators. They are opportunists and their diet is determined largely by both their size and age and the size and availability of prey. Most American alligators eat a wide variety of animals, including invertebrates, fish, birds, turtles, snakes, amphibians, and mammals. Once an American alligator reaches full size, any animal living in or near the water is potential prey.

Size/Description

The American alligator is a relatively large species of crocodilian. On average, it is the second-largest species in the family Alligatoridae. Weight varies considerably depending on length, age, health, season, and available food sources. American alligators from the northern end of their range tend to reach smaller sizes. In mature males, most specimens grow up to about 11 ft in length and weigh up to 790 pounds. In females, the mature size is normally around 8 ft with a body weight up to 200 lbs. Adult American alligators may be olive, brown, gray, or black with cream-colored undersides and broad snouts. When the jaws are closed, the edges of the upper jaws cover the lower teeth.

Habitat

American alligators inhabit swamps, streams, rivers, ponds, and lakes. They prefer fresh water, and may occasionally stray into brackish water, but are less tolerant of salt water than crocodiles. In the winter, American alligators den underneath banks or clumps of trees. When the water begins to freeze, they go into brumation and stick their snout above the surface of the water so they can breathe above the ice. In the summer, males generally prefer open water, while females tend to remain in the swamps to construct nests and lay their eggs.

Range

American alligators are found, mostly, in the Southeastern United States. This can be as far north as Virginia and North Carolina and as far west as Texas, but they are mostly found in Florida – specifically, Everglades National Park.