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No, the National Guard Is Not Using Alligators to Deter Illegal Border Crossings
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No, the National Guard Is Not Using Alligators to Deter Illegal Border Crossings

They are part of the natural ecosystem.

An alligator glides through an inlet along the Rio Grande on February 23, 2018, in McAllen, Texas. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Are alligators being used to stop illegal crossings at the southern border? A viral video with nearly 2 million views claims that the National Guard has released the reptiles into the Rio Grande for extra border protection.

The claim is false. Alligators do live in parts of the Rio Grande, but they were not released there by the Texas National Guard or U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP).

The Rio Grande runs along the eastern half of the U.S. border with Mexico, stretching from El Paso, Texas, to the river’s terminus in the Gulf of Mexico. Alligators are commonly spotted in the river, and, as shared by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in April, warning signs about their presence are posted in certain sectors. “American alligators in the lower Rio Grande are native to the region and part of the natural ecosystem,” a CPB spokesman told The Dispatch Fact Check. According to the spokesman, rumors of the alligators being used by Border Patrol and the National Guard began in Spanish-language media but quickly spread into English-language social media.

While the alligators might make someone think twice before diving into the river, they are not deliberately used for border protection by either the National Guard or CPB. “The National Guard does not, and will not, place alligators in any rivers to prevent migrant border crossings,” a National Guard spokesman told The Dispatch Fact Check

As Dr. Jeff Tamplin, a professor of biology at the University of Northern Iowa, explained to The Dispatch Fact Check in March regarding a similar claim, even if reptiles were to be used at the border, alligators would probably not be the most effective choice. He said,

If the Louisiana National Guard wants to use a more aggressive species of crocodilian to deter border crossings, they would be better off importing Nile Crocodiles (Crocodylus niloticus) and/or Saltwater Crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus). Both of those species are much more aggressive than the usually docile American alligator.

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Alex Demas is a fact checker at The Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he worked in England as a financial journalist and earned his MA in Political Economy at King's College London. When not heroically combating misinformation online, Alex can be found mixing cocktails, watching his beloved soccer team Aston Villa lose a match, or attempting to pet stray cats.