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Summary:Blessed with rich fertile soil in the Delta and Black Belt regions, Mississippi's landscape is relatively flat and varies slightly from east to west and from north to south. More than 125 species of neo-tropicals, waders, shorebirds and sea birds visit Cape San Blas. The American alligator is a member of the crocodile family, whose members are living fossils from the Age of Reptiles, having survived on earth for 200 million years. Today, alligators are found throughout the Southeast, from the Carolinas to Texas and north to Arkansas. The alligator has a large, slightly rounded body, with thick limbs, a broad head, and a very powerful tail which it uses to propel itself through water. Sometimes, the alligator may expand its gator hole by digging beneath an overhanging bank to create a hidden den.
During mating season in the spring, and nesting during the summer, alligators can become very aggressive and territorial. Generally, the western and southern regions of Mississippi, including the Gulf Coast area, are wetter and more humid. However, the alligator can be distinguished from the crocodile by its head shape and color. As during the Reptile Age, today alligators live in wetlands, and it is this vital habitat that holds the key to their continued long-term survival.


Small animals that come to the water's edge to drink make easy prey for the voracious alligator. An alligator uses its mouth and claws to uproot vegetation to clear out a space; then, shoving with its body and slashing with its powerful tail, it wallows out a depression that stays full of water in the wet season and holds water after the rains stop. After tunneling as far as 20 feet, it enlarges the end, making a chamber with a ceiling high enough above water level to permit breathing. Although alligators have no vocal cords, males bellow loudly to attract mates and warn off other males during this time by sucking air into their lungs and blowing it out in intermittent, deep-toned roars. Alligators move freely from lake to lake and no pond or lake should be considered alligator free. Its pre-European history was dominated by a Mississippian American Indian culture which flourished for hundreds of years, and who first met Hernando de Soto as he passed through the region in 1540. The crocodile has a narrower snout, and unlike the alligator, has teeth in the lower jaw which are visible even when its mouth is shut. While alligators move very quickly in water, they are generally slow-moving on land, although they can be quick for short distances. During the dry season, and particularly during extended droughts, gator holes provide vital water for fish, insects, crustaceans, snakes, turtles, birds, and other animals in addition to the alligator itself. This is not the alligator's nest but merely a way for the reptile to survive the dry season and winters.


The Territory of Mississippi was organized in 1798, and was expanded several times through treaties with the American Indian tribes and land claimed from the Spanish.
As predators at the top of the food chain, they help control numbers of rodents and other animals that might overtax the marshland vegetation. Cotton began to be farmed intensively from the 1800's onward, underpinning the wealth and culture of Deep South plantation owners, though the cotton industry necessitated the need for hundreds of thousands of slaves.
Mississippi became the second state in the Union to secede from the North and join the Confederacy on January 9th, 1861. The White population of the state is predominantly native-born, and typically of Northern European descent. Jackson is the largest city and state capital, and the Gulf Coast area, though devastated by Hurricane Katrina, is the wealthiest region in the state. The largely conservative political makeup has led to Republican victories in the last two Presidential elections, though before the gradual platform shift of Southern Democrats, Mississippi had string of 116 consecutive years of Democratic Governorship.



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