American Alligator

HomeAnimalsAmerican Alligator

Mary Lou, an American alligator, has lived at the Santa Barbara Zoo since it first opened, making her our oldest and longest-term resident.

MARY LOU

  • Is of an unknown age, but she’s at least 51. Her species can live anywhere from 80 to 100 years.
  • Is a “petite” 6 feet long, as the average length for female alligators is 8 feet long
  • Has twice-weekly sessions with keepers who go in her enclosure to feed her and train her to touch her nose to a target
  • Is not a picky eater, and eats mostly fish, mice, and quail
  • Is only fed while in the pool’s water

From the Keepers

“Mary Lou is trained to shift into her backup area for a reward so we can clean her pool. She also does laps in the pool as part of her target training. She may spend a great deal of time not moving, but when she wants to, she can be very, very quick.”

-Lindsay R.

Conservation Status

n 1967, American alligators were protected as an endangered species, even before the Endangered Species Act of 1973. This was due to habitat loss and hunting for their skins, which were used to make handbags, wallets, shoes, and other products. Just twenty years later their numbers had rebounded, and American alligators were considered one of the first endangered species success stories. Today, over a million alligators can be found in the swamps and wetlands of the American southeast, and they are listed as “Least Concern” by the IUCN Red List.

Keep the Water Clean

Clean water is very important to the survival of all species, including alligators. You can help prevent pollution in our lakes, rivers, and oceans by making sure you properly dispose of chemicals and pet waste.

Winter Brumation

During the winter months, alligators enter “brumation,” which is to reptiles what hibernation is to mammals. Their bodies slow down; they stop eating, and bask in the sun when possible. They gradually becomre more active as the weather warms. This survival adaptation for reptiles has evolved over millions of years.