American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) and various species of crocodiles are the crocodilians that are used to produce all of the classic leather that is available on the world market today. The only legal commercial source of wild alligators is the southeastern states of the United States. Alligator skins are more expensive than crocodile. Commercial quantities of crocodiles are by far more plentiful and located primarily in Africa, Southeast Asia, and Australia. While alligators are primarily found in fresh water, Crocodiles are found in both salt and freshwater. Crocodilians have been in existence for 150 to 200 million years and still inhabit the oceans, rivers, swamps and wetlands of most countries that have a tropical or subtropical climate.
Today, it is uncommon to find alligators that are longer than 13 feet but crocodiles, especially the saltwater species, may attain lengths in excess of 20 feet.
Alligators have large blunt bills and the teeth of adults are mostly conical and relatively blunt and most do not extend outside of the top jaw. Adult crocodiles have narrower bills, teeth that are conical and very sharp at the pointed end. Several of the crocodile’s teeth extend outside of and sometimes protrude through the top part of the bill.
The following statements in this paragraph are made after having removed problem alligators for 25 years under supervision of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.The diet of adult alligators consists primarily of meat and carrion but they will eat virtually anything. Alligators prefer to eat small animals that live on and around the water. I have personally found tennis balls golf balls, inner tubes, gas lines from outboard motor tanks, glass and plastic bottles, fishing lures, dog collars and tags, shoes, floats, plastic bags and other assorted objects in the stomach of alligators. Wild alligators will attack and eat animals as large as cows, horses and people. Alligator’s actions and reactions are more logical and consistent than people. People tend to cause most of the problems that are attributed to alligators. Alligators, especially the males, are cannibalistic. Attacks on humans from alligators and crocodiles, especially the latter, can be fatal. Most alligator attacks on humans occur early or late in the day. Some female alligators are extremely protective of their nests and sometimes protective of their young. I have never had a female pursue me after leaving the area directly around the nest. I have never had an alligator attack me if I did not initiate the confrontation. Unprovoked alligator attacks on humans have increased dramatically during the last few years, primarily due to the alligator’s habitat loss and people feeding the alligators. Some alligators will attack certain lawnmowers and weed-eaters that are operating at the edge of the water. Fortunately, quality alligator meat is delicious and more people eat alligator meat than visa versa. In my opinion it is safer to be around alligators than people as alligators are more predictable than people.
Alligator’s have hollow teeth and some of the larger ones have “spare” smaller teeth growing inside of the tooth that is in use. Should the exposed tooth come out or break off, there is another in place. Alligators have an opaque membrane that covers and protects the eyeball from foreign objects while the gator is submerged. This protective lens retracts when the gator surfaces and its vision is acute above water. When alligators become blind, they feed using their sense of smell, feeling and sometimes attack the origination of sounds. Alligators feed on the surface of the water, grab birds flying over the water and take food items from the shoreline or on land. While an alligator is in the water, they can feel the vibrations made by a person walking on land. The brain of an 8-foot long alligator is about the size of a green pea therefore humility is always felt when one outsmarts me. My salvation comes while explaining that alligators have very keen instincts. When threatened, alligators always, when possible, retreat to the nearest water and submerge. Alligators are primarily nocturnal.
The incubation temperature of an egg helps determine the sex of the alligator. Male alligators grow faster than and larger than females. Alligators can live up to 45 years in the wild. Alligators are territorial especially during the breeding and nesting season. Alligators are cold blooded. The temperature of their environment affects an alligator’s metabolism and body functions. I have never known of an alligator to feed when the water and air temperature both stabilize at 65 degrees F of less. At lower water temperatures, large alligators have the ability to remain submerged for several hours. Alligators have the ability to produce tremendous bursts of energy of speed for short intervals however they lack stamina. Alligator blood is amongst the purest of any animal on the planet and it is actually used to calibrate some types of blood monitoring equipment. Alligators have a tremendous immune system and are not ordinarily affected by pathogens that would be fatal to other animals. Alligators have an extremely high tolerance for pain as I have caught alligators on a baited hook within 8 hours after the animal had it’s rear leg twisted off by a larger animal. Alligators cannot run faster than a racehorse. They can’t even run faster than me. Alligators are extremely quick and agile. I once watched an 8-foot long gator propel its entire body, by using its tail, over 6 feet above the ground. I have seen an alligator longer than 11 feet launch its entire body clear of the water in a vertical direction. Alligators do not need their legs to swim. I have caught several gators with only 2 legs however in all instances, they had 1 leg on each side of their body. Alligators are hatched with 5 toes on the front foot but only have 3 claws. Alligators should have 4 toes on their back feet but again, only have 3 claws.
You can’t tell an alligators sex by its eye color. Most of the time, an alligator’s eyes reflect a red color when a beam of light shines on them in the dark. A blind alligator’s eyes do not reflect. Alligators can live for longer than 1 year without food. Alligators can be relatively difficult to kill with trauma, however the psychological shock of handling an alligator may kill it, especially in the case of a larger animal. Alligators can endure temperatures from less than 45 degrees F to the high 90’s. Dropping temperatures from 90 degrees to 45 degrees within a 12 hour period of time are tolerated with no ill effects. When larger animals are warmed from 45 degrees to 80 degrees within 12 hours, a large percentage may perish. The alligator’s natural range extends farther north than any other crocodilian.
Contrary to a common misconception, tanned alligator leather products DO NOT LAST FOREVER. People, with expendable income, purchase alligator products due to their unique and luxurious characteristics. Although scale patterns are similar, it is impossible to have a perfect duplicate of a genuine alligator product. It is very difficult to have a perfect color match from different skins that were processed in the same tannery and from the same dye lot. An individual finished alligator skin varies in the color shade and shine from head to tail. Tail cuts have slightly less color and slightly less shine than the belly cuts. Skins from wild alligators tend to be larger and have more character than do farm raised animals. Each cut from each skin is truly unique. Alligator skins are of higher quality and more valuable than caiman skins.