Just because alligators have no natural desire to eat us for dinner, doesn't mean we don't need to be cautious in their presence. If you live or are vacationing in alligator country, there are some ways to decrease the likelihood of an unpleasant encounter.
Many human victims of alligator attacks are small children who are wading or playing in water without adult supervision.
Alligators may attack because they're hungry, but that's not the most common reason. As humans continue to encroach on wildlife habitat, reducing the alligator's natural food sources, it's expected that these types of attacks may increase. The two main reasons that an alligator attacks a human are because it's protecting its territory or it's angry.
An adult male is territorial during mating season, which is early- to mid-summer. If he feels threatened or startled, he may attack. A female with her young may attack if she views a human as a threat to her offspring. In fact, attacks often occur when a human tries to capture or pet young alligators, not realizing that mom is nearby.
Many attacks occur as a result of people teasing or trying to capture alligators. Throwing sticks and rocks at alligators may seem harmless, but doing so creates a dangerous situation for both the person and the alligator.
How do you enjoy yourself in areas where alligators may be present? Swim in areas where the water is clear and the banks are well groomed. Alligators may be lurking in areas where the water is murky and the banks are overgrown with weeds or brush. No matter how inviting the water, it makes sense to avoid it during times when alligators are most active. They typically feed at dusk and through the night, and may still be active at dawn.
If you have children or small pets with you, keep them away from the water's edge. Only allow them into the water if you or another adult are present to supervise them (or better yet, don't allow them in the water at all). Also, if you've been fishing, don't clean the fish at the water's edge or throw the discarded parts into the water.
Finally, if you see an alligator, get out of the water. Warn others in the area, and no matter how small the alligator is, don't attempt to pet, feed or capture it. By following these tips you shouldn't have to worry whether you'll run in a zigzag, up a tree or down a hill to avoid an alligator.
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More Great Links
- "Avoiding Encounters with Alligators." Orlando Sentinel. July 28, 2004. (March 16, 2009)http://www.orlandosentinel.com/entertainment/orllocgatorbitebox28072804july28,0,4417574.story..
- Green, Merissa. "Swimmer Bitten by Gator in Lake." The Ledger. April 22, 2006. (March 16, 2009)http://www.theledger.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060422/NEWS/604220371/1004.
- Holtey, Athena. "Encountering Predators While Kayaking." TopKayaker.net. (March 16, 2009)http://www.topkayaker.net/articles/natureissues/sharks.htm.
- Nagourney, Eric. "Hazards: Alligator Attacks Increasing (Don't Pick One Up)." New York Post. Sept. 27, 2005. (March 16, 2009)http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/27/health/27haza.html.
- National Park Service.http://www.nps.gov/jela/naturescience/upload/alligator.pdf
- Florida Museum of Natural History. "A Comparison of Shark Attacks and Fatalities and Alligator Attacks and Fatalities from 1948 to 2005." (March 16, 2009)http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/sharks/attacks/relariskgator.htm