As a Texas native, I often get asked if alligators live in Texas. Though most people associate alligators with Florida or Louisiana, Texas also has a large number of Alligators as well. In fact, at one point in time, much of Texas was crawling with Alligators.
Texas is home to alligators in several dozen counties and many different bodies of water. Generally, alligators inhabit eastern and southeastern Texas close to Louisiana. However, there have been various reports of Alligators throughout the state.
Alligators are shy creatures that want to avoid interaction with people. However, the continuous building of new homes and neighborhoods throughout Texas has caused their habitats to get smaller. This is why more Texans seem to be encountering them.
What Part Of Texas Has Alligators?
In Texas, alligators only inhabit 120 counties out of the 254 that exist in the state and they make their home in marshes, lakes, rivers, ponds, and swamps which are all smaller bodies of water than exist in Texas.
Generally, alligators only live in one portion of the state from the Northeast portion to the lower West portion. The further you go towards the state line on the east side of Texas, the more alligators you are likely to see.
This portion of Texas is called “gator country” for a reason, there are far more gators living in those areas than people realize and it’s not wise to walk through the area without some prior knowledge of alligators and their habits.
Do Lakes In Texas Have Alligators?
Any lake in Texas can contain one or more alligators at any time. However, it would be more common for an alligator to be living in a lake in the east portion of the state.
While most alligators prefer marshes or swampy areas, it is not uncommon for alligators to create their habitats in Texas lakes, even ones with little to no brush or grassy area around them.
Caution should be taken when wanting to swim in the lakes around Texas because even if you can’t see any alligators, they could be there. Alligators usually hide right underneath the surface of the water where they can camouflage themselves so other animals can’t see them.
Unfortunately, when you’re in the water, you won’t be aware that an alligator is nearby until it is right beside you. Once you know the alligator is there, it is usually too late to do anything, and you have to focus on being calm and slowly swimming to safety simply.
The issue is that alligators are more comfortable in water than on land, so they will be able to outswim you every single time over being able to outrun you.
Of course, in the majority of lakes in Texas, you will very unlikely run into an alligator. Especially in areas where alligators are uncommon. Realistically you should probably be more worried about running into a water moccasin than an alligator in most Texas lakes.
How Many Alligators Live In Texas?
Given that alligators are not exceptionally social creatures, it’s incredibly hard for any animal group or organization to effectively sound and track all of the alligators in Texas; however, experts have estimated anywhere from 400,000-500,000 alligators live in Texas at any given moment.
This number will fluctuate throughout the year, especially during mating season when a lot of alligators move around and migrate to other living areas to find a mate and lay eggs. Most of the alligators in Texas live on the east side of Texas and along the coastline.
How Common Are Alligator Attacks In Texas?
Alligator attacks are not extremely common, especially not in Texas. Overall, each year you may only see 2-4 attacks, and on average, only about 1-2 of those are bad enough to be transported to the hospital for care.
There have only been two fatal alligator attacks in Texas in 20 years, which means almost all of the attacks make full recoveries. When you compare this number with the large population of alligators that live in Texas, it’s easy to see that alligators are not a huge threat to humans.
Any attacks that happen to humans are mostly a result of being provoked by a human in some way. Alligators want to be left alone, and they usually stay away from heavily human-populated areas.
How To Avoid Alligators In Texas
Avoiding alligator attacks isn’t generally an issue if you respect their space and habitats. Alligators rarely attack humans without being provoked or baited by bad behavior. The most common reason for an alligator attack on a human is due to being provoked or when alligators go after a pet.
Alligators are pretty shy creatures and prefer to live on their own without human interaction. It is highly unlikely that you will ever actually encounter an alligator in your day unless it is hunting or mating time.
If an alligator isn’t hunting or mating, it keeps to itself and simply waits to hunt or mate.
Usually, when alligators go after a pet, the owners attempt to intervene and save their pets. While it’s the first instinct, usually, it will cause the alligator to turn on you. When alligators are after food, they will act on pure survival instincts regardless of their normal interactions.
The biggest rule when it comes to avoiding alligator attacks is to leave them alone. If you live your life avoiding and leaving alligators alone as much as possible. Alligators usually become an issue only when humans have disrupted their normal habits and routines.
If you feed, agitate, or allow an alligator to become too comfortable with you or other humans, they can get used to the treatment and react aggressively when the treatment stops or is disrupted.
If an alligator is running after you, the best thing for you to do is pick a direction and run as fast as you can in a straight line. While alligators can run up to 30mph, they struggle to run in a straight line; they run best in a zigzag motion.
Your best option for surviving an encounter with an aggressive alligator is to get away from the area and the animal as quickly as possible while maintaining composure. Don’t try to wait for the alligator out; simply get away.
If an alligator snaps at you, this is a warning, and you should not stay still or wait; you should run at all costs. A snap is usually telling you to get out of its space and move. If the alligator does bite you, hitting and punching its head and eyes will be the best way to make it let you go.
Fighting is your only option when an alligator attacks. Playing dead or being still will only allow them to injure and kill you faster.
(Source: IFAS Solutions)
In The Water
If you are swimming in any body of water where alligators could be, you need to know how to avoid and survive alligator attacks while swimming. The first rule is to avoid swimming while alligators are hunting for food.
Alligators are generally hungry and hunt when it starts to get dark, so anytime around evening or early morning, they are likely to be hunting, and there is a higher chance of alligator attacks. The best way to avoid any issues is only to swim after full sunlight hits the water and to get out before the sunset starts.
It’s also highly recommended to only swim in pairs, or more so multiple people are on the watch for alligators instead of you being the only one responsible for swimming and watching. The more people that are swimming with you, the more likely it is that someone will see an alligator before it becomes a large problem.
If you are simply sitting by the water, you will most likely be fine, but crouching or lying right by the edge of the water can make you look like an animal and can prompt an alligator to try to attack you. It’s best to stay around 5-8 feet away from the water if you want to lay down or crouch for a longer period.
If you were to end up getting attacked by an alligator, do not stop fighting and keep as calm as possible. While keeping calm when you’re being attacked by an animal seems impossible, this may be the thing that can save your life. Keeping calm can allow you to think through a few maneuvers that can make the difference between life and death.
If the alligator bites you and does not let go, you can attack its eyes and head as much as possible. Hurting one or the other creates a moment where the alligator will choose to get away or fight you harder. Usually, they will let you go, especially once they realize you are not their normal food.
If they try to drag you into the water, if you can fit your hand into their throat at all, you can apply pressure and punch or hit the back of their throat as hard as possible. They have a valve in their throat that stops water from going into their lungs but punching and applying pressure to this valve interrupts that and will cause them to let you go.
The alligators would rather let their prey go than drown. Once you have effectively gotten yourself out of their mouth, run as fast as possible in a straight line to get help. It will take the alligator a few seconds to realize you are running, and that should be enough for you to get away safely.
Rules For Texas Alligator Country
If you live anywhere in or around the “gator country” area in Texas, you must know a few rules about how to live that will help you avoid alligators altogether. Even if you don’t live near water, these are things you need to know.
First, if you are used to throwing out food scraps into the brush, that has to stop. Even though you think it’s good for your soil, or you may be feeding stray dogs, you could be feeding alligators and drawing them to your house.
If you have one alligator, there could always be more, and you don’t want a bunch of alligators behind your house looking for food. It’s best to throw your scraps in the trash and use a proper trash can.
If possible, a fenced-in yard is going to be the best thing for you if you have kids or pets. While a fence won’t necessarily stop an alligator from getting in your yard, it can give you enough time to get your pets and kids inside before it fully gets over the fence.
This also allows your kids and pets somewhat of an isolated area to play that will be as safe as possible from any alligators. Furthermore, pets and kids should come inside before it gets too dark and stay inside until the sun rises.
Lastly, it’s incredibly important to simply know the area around where you live and understand the risks. If you live near the water with any kids, your chances of encountering an alligator are much higher than those who live in dryer areas. If you live around wooded areas, this can also be a place where alligators go hunting for food, and you may also encounter them there.
Should You Contact Texas Parks and Wildlife If You See An Alligator
Overall most alligator sightings are quick and without incident; however, this can change quickly and become dangerous. This is why Texas Parks & Wildlife prefers to be notified of any alligators that are hanging around a certain area for too long or if they seem aggressive.
If there is an alligator attack, you immediately need to contact authorities and medical for help right away. There is no reason to try and be a hero for moving an alligator when you have trained professionals ready to do it for you.
TPWD prefers to leave alligators alone and interact with them as little as possible. Moving them could disrupt their mating or hunting routine and cause a food supply issue or lower breeding numbers.
As much as possible, simply leave the alligator alone and ignore it. As long as it is not threatening your family or affecting your day-to-day life, it should be fine to coexist with you in whatever space it is in.
That said, if you need an alligator to be moved, calling TPWD is your safest and best option. Even if it takes them a while to get to you, there is no good outcome that can happen if you try to scare or move the alligator on your own.
Alligators will try to fight back if they become frightened or challenged, and you do not have the tools necessary to take on an alligator on your own without sustaining a possible injury. Leave alligator issues to the professionals and simply leave them alone on your own time.
Alligators live in several states across the US, but most people only associate them with Florida and Louisiana, even though Texas has quite a high alligator population as well. In almost every body of water on the east side of Texas, you can find an alligator.
Alligators are seen as dangerous animals but attacks especially in Texas are rare. Unless provoked or messed with, they usually keep to themselves and don’t bother humans. Of the almost 500,000 alligators that live in Texas alone, only 2-4 have violent contact with humans every year.