Found only in the United States, the American alligator ranges in Texas through 120 counties, from the Sabine River to the Rio Grande, across a swath of river drainages and coastal marshes that include both the backwater swamps of the Big Thicket and the urban bayous of the Houston metroplex.
From its beginning in a pile of eggs buried in a meticulously constructed nest to its possible end as an alligator burger or a pair of boots, an alligator's habitat preferences sometimes coincide with the favorite haunts of boaters, hunters, and coastal residents though its behavior is sometimes poorly understood.
In Alligators of Texas, biologist Louise Hayes and photographer Philippe Henry have come together to bring readers up close to this cryptic reptile's food choices, parenting skills, communication techniques, and responses to natural events such as freezes and hurricanes. They also relate some Texas "alligator tales"; discuss alligator farming, hunting, and live capturing; and examine how people can successfully co-exist with this predator. They end by telling readers where they can view alligators, both in the wild and in captivity.
Although not as often, as easily, or perhaps as happily observed as white-tailed deer or armadillos, the American alligator is an iconic Texas animal, and knowing more about its life and habits can help Texans better understand its rightful place in the landscape.
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Louise Hayes-Odum has been studying American alligators inTexas since 1984. Her field research has focused on the alligatorsat Brazos Bend State Park.
Philippe Henry is a professional wildlife photographer based in Montreal. His photographs have been published worldwide.