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Heavy and ungainly out of water, these reptiles are supremely well adapted swimmers. Males average 10 to 15 feet (3 to 4.6 meters) in length and can weigh 1,000 pounds (453 kg). Females grow to a maximum of about 9.8 feet (3 meters.) Hatchlings are 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 centimeters) long with yellow and black stripes. Juveniles, which are on the menu for dozens of predators, including birds, raccoons, bobcats, and even other alligators, usually stay with their mothers for about two years.
American alligators reside nearly exclusively in the freshwater rivers, lakes, swamps, and marshes of the southeastern United States, primarily Florida and Louisiana.