There is often confusion between alligators and crocodiles, leading to the misconception that alligators are found globally. However, alligators inhabit only specific regions, particularly in the United States.
In the southeastern U.S., an estimated 5 million alligators live in the wild, with a significant concentration in Louisiana. Over the past fifty years, Louisiana's alligator population has burgeoned from 500,000 to over two million in the wild, plus an additional million in farming. Notable areas in Louisiana with dense alligator populations include Lake Martin, Caddo Lake, and Cross Lake.
Florida is another state with a substantial alligator population, numbering over 1.25 million. These alligators inhabit natural springs, rivers, lakes, ponds, swamps, and wetlands. While they are typically found in freshwater, it's not uncommon to spot a Florida alligator in brackish or saltwater. Despite their fearsome reputation, alligators are less dangerous than crocodiles, with Florida averaging only about eight unprovoked alligator bites per year.
In Northern Texas, alligators are commonly found in lakes, but the highest concentrations reside along the Gulf Coastal Plains. Texas alligators generally prefer freshwaters such as swamps, rivers, bayous, and marshes, but they may also venture into brackish waters. The state recognizes alligators as a protected species, with management under the authority of Texas Parks and Wildlife.
Georgia hosts a population of 200,000 to 250,000 alligators, predominantly in wetland areas south of the fall line, which extends from Columbus through Macon to Augusta. The climate further north is too cold for alligators. In Georgia, hunting alligators is regulated, requiring the use of a restraining line for killing or capturing them.
Alligator sightings are not limited to Louisiana, Florida, Texas, or Georgia. Smaller populations have been observed in southeast Oklahoma, North Carolina, and southern Arkansas, expanding the known range of these remarkable reptiles in the United States.