The American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis), sometimes referred to colloquially as a gator or common alligator, is a large crocodilian reptile endemic to the southeastern United States. It is one of two living species in the genus Alligator within the family Alligatoridae, it is larger than the other extant alligator species, the Chinese alligator. Adult male American alligators measure 3.4 to 5 m in length, and can weigh up to 453 to 600 kg. Females are smaller, measuring around 3 m. The American alligator inhabits freshwater wetlands, such as marshes and cypress swamps from Texas to North Carolina. Alligators are apex predators and consume fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. Hatchlings feed mostly on invertebrates.

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Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

Top choice in Space Coast

This unspoiled 140,000-acre refuge is one of the country's best birding spots, especially from October to May (early morning and after 4pm). More endangered and threatened species of wildlife inhabit the swamps, marshes and hardwood hammocks here than at any other site in the continental US. The best viewing is on Black Point Wildlife Drive.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Space Coast attractions

1. Space View Park

4.67 MILES

Directly across the Indian River Lagoon from Kennedy Space Center, this park is one of the best spots on the coast from which to observe launches. Its 2…

2. Playalinda Beach

6.37 MILES

At the southern end of Mosquito Lagoon, Playalinda is popular with surfers. Boardwalks provide beach access, but only 2 miles of park road parallel the…

3. Klondike Beach

7.43 MILES

The stretch between Apollo and Playalinda is as pristine as it gets: there are no roads and it's accessible only on foot or by bike (if you are skilled…

4. Canaveral National Seashore

7.79 MILES

The 24 miles of pristine, windswept beaches here comprise the longest stretch of undeveloped beach on Florida's east coast. They include family-friendly…

5. Kennedy Space Center

8.76 MILES

Within this 140,000-acre campus, the dreams of some of the greatest scientific minds of the 20th century took flight all the way to the moon and back…

6. Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum

9.16 MILES

What started off as a hobby for 12 combat veterans has grown into a 1500-member-strong club and fascinating museum, which celebrates the region's aviation…

7. Orlando Wetlands Park

17.36 MILES

Woodlands, lakes and marshes flush with migrating birds, alligators, deer and all kinds of other critters. There are 20 miles of hiking trails and dirt…

8. EFSC Planetarium & Observatory

17.73 MILES

Discover new galaxies and constellations in this 70ft domed planetarium that projects the night skies in startling detail, enhanced with laser effects and…