The American Alligator is an unusual success story of a species that came back from the brink of extinction to a species that now is thriving in the Southeastern United States. Even more amazing, scientists claim this is the second time alligators have escaped extinction, the first over 65 million years ago when the dinosaurs met their fate. Today, over one million American Alligators inhabit Florida and with so many in our backyards, there are some myths that need to be deemed fact or fiction.

Myth 1: Alligators will eat humans.

FACT: Although rare, alligators are opportunists when it comes to eating, so even though their main meals consist of fish, turtles, snakes and small mammals, if something big is in their path and they are hunting they will take the chance to attack. Lesson to learn, do not feed alligators as they will become used to eating in areas where humans frequent, and if you see an alligator keep a safe distance, you are in their natural habitat and should respect their boundaries.

Myth 2: Alligators will grow to over 20 feet in length.

FICTION: The largest alligator ever claimed to be in existence was 19.8 feet, however this was never proven. Male gators grow to an average of 10 to 15 feet and females grow to an average of 9.8 feet.

Myth 3: Alligators will eat anything in their path.

FICTION: Alligators, especially healthy ones can go months between meals since they are cold blooded reptiles, requiring less food to maintain their body temperature.

Myth 4: Alligators cannot run from side to side.

FACT: Gators can only run in a straight line, so if one starts chasing you, start running in a zigzag pattern. Although gators can reach a speed of 30 MPH, they have little endurance and can only run a short distance.

Myth 5: Gators are only found in freshwater.

FICTION: Gators are mostly found in freshwater, however they can tolerate some brackish water, including waterways in Brevard County such as Turkey Creek, St. Johns River and Melbourne Harbor.

Myth 6: Alligators will not stay submerged underwater for long periods of time.

FICTION: Alligators can stay submerged for several hours, only if they are not actively swimming or hunting. They can do this by rerouting blood to reduce circulation and the need for oxygen.