Are There Alligators in Missouri?

Missouri somehow sounds as if there should be alligators. After all, the American alligator is also called the Mississippi alligator, and there it is, the Mississipi, right in St. Louis!

It seems very plausible to imagine an alligator floating elegantly, its silhouette adding a threatening component to the famous view of the Gateway Arch. But, all aesthetic considerations aside, would this view be possible? Are there alligators in Missouri? 

No, unfortunately, alligators are not found in Missouri – at least not as native inhabitants. Native alligator populations are rarely found north of Arkansas and Tennesse. Non-native alligator populations, though, have been spotted in parts of Missouri. Most of these instances can be traced back to escaped or released pets. 

Keeping alligators – or any other wild animals – as pets is, to put it bluntly, a horrible idea. While baby alligators are just about six to eight inches long, shorter than a human forearm, an adult male alligator can be up to 15 feet long and can weigh up to 1000 pounds, even though a weight between 500 and 600 pounds is more common.

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Aside from being much harder to control than a pocket-sized baby gator, it is also close to impossible for private pet owners to give these creatures the habitat they deserve.  

Young alligator
Young alligator

Due to their immense weight, alligators are in need of a body of water that is large enough that they can float in – otherwise, they even risk dying from the pressure of their own internal weight. Since these animals live in hot temperatures, an abundance of heat lamps is necessary to create this climate in a colder state. 

These logistic challenges aside, there is also the fact that an alligator will not develop affection as a cat or dog does. While some will get used to human contact, especially when it is connected with feeding, and even come to enjoy certain touches, like being petted on the head, in the end, reptiles are ruled by very primal emotions, foremost fear and aggression.

And while the aggression of a palm-sized pet turtle is nothing to be afraid of, an alligator with its 80 teeth and its strong muscular body, on the other hand, is the last creature you want to anger, unless “death by dinosaur” is the final item on your bucket list. 

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What Is the Difference Between Alligators and Crocodiles? 

Alligator vs crocodile
Alligator vs crocodile

Some people use the words “alligator” and “crocodile” interchangeably, but that is not correct. They both belong to the order of crocodilians but belong to two different families. They even have largely different habitats – South Florida is the only place where it is possible to find both of these creatures in the wild. 

The easiest way to differentiate between alligators and crocodiles is to look at the shape of their snout. Alligators have rounded snouts that are roughly U-shaped, whereas the noses of crocodiles are longer and shaped like a V. These different shapes have different functions.

The rounded alligator snouts carry more strength, which is necessary to crack open the hard shells of turtles. With its pointedly tapered mouth, the crocodile can exert targeted biting power. Therefore, while alligators have stronger snouts, these are limited to the overpowering of a specific range of prey animals, where crocodile snouts are technically weaker but applicable for hunting a wider variety of prey.  

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Baby Alligator
Baby Alligator

If you come even closer – which is obviously not recommended – you will see the second obvious difference in appearance: alligators have an overbite. This is the result of their lower jaw being more narrow than their upper jaw, which results in the lower row of teeth disappearing in their closed mouths.

In crocodiles, both jaws are approximate of the same with, and their teeth interlace on the outside of their closed mouth, giving them that typical appearance of a smug grin. 

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Both animals live in and near water, but crocodiles are saltwater animals while alligators need freshwater. 

What both species have in common is, that as cold-blooded reptiles they rely on external heat sources to keep their body heat up. Therefore, they live preferably in warm climates. Both crocodiles and alligators have existed almost unchanged for 55 million years, and are thus contemporary remnants of the time of the dinosaurs. 

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