SAFE IS IT TO BE AROUND ALLIGATORS?
July 15, 2012
bit off the arm of a teenage boy who was swimming in a Florida lake
on July 9. The alligator was killed. Fortunately, the boy survived.
News stories about alligator attacks always generate many questions,
such as the following.
Q. I belong
to a water ski association near Charleston, S.C. We occasionally see
gators in the area, and after the alligator attack in Florida some of
the skiers are a little anxious about getting in the water. Are the
large ones more likely to be aggressive than the smaller ones? No one
in our group feeds the gators, and our members are skiing enthusiasts
who enjoy waterskiing more than they fear gators, but any information
you can give us to make our sport safer would be appreciated.
concerns are understandable, but the threat is minimal. I have worked
around alligators for many years, and the only bites or bruises my colleagues
or I have experienced have come while actually capturing a gator. Although
the bizarre is always possible with wild animals, I would not hesitate
to waterski merely because alligators are present. The dangers on the
highway leading to your ski area are a thousand times greater than the
dangers from the reptiles in the water. But traffic accidents are commonplace,
whereas experiences with potentially harmful wild animals are in the
realm of the unknown for most people.
point: large alligators should be wary of the presence of humans where
you are skiing. Be alert if one approaches the boat or swims toward
a person in the water. You mentioned that water-skiers in your group
do not feed the gators, but other people might. Wild alligators that
have been fed by humans are the source of many of the recorded alligator
bites. As with other wild animals, alligators that have been fed may
have lost their wariness of people but they are nonetheless wild.
are huge, and like other very large animals they can cause injuries
merely because of their size. But alligators also have big mouths and
extremely sharp teeth. Fed alligators are attracted to people and are
expecting to get something to eat, which regrettably could end up being
a person. Although it is of little comfort to someone who has been attacked
by an alligator, such incidents are extremely rare.
large alligators more aggressive than smaller ones? What is the most
dangerous size alligator to someone on land? It seems like smaller ones
could run faster.
a general rule, the most dangerous size alligator to find in the wild
is a newborn baby. Adult females (which are smaller than the males but
can reach lengths of more than nine feet) will vigorously defend their
nests and babies. A baby alligator may let someone walking along shore
pick it up, but when it is scared it will start making a squeaking sound,
which brings the mother gator to protect it. A mother alligator will
come up on land with mouth open to chase a person away. Her objective
is to frighten away the intruder, and she typically will not continue
in pursuit once a person retreats. The behavior is perceived as highly
aggressive, but in reality it is strictly a defensive measure to protect
are aggressive toward other males during the mating season and perhaps
other times, but I have never seen one be aggressive toward a person.
However, it is conceivable that a territorial male alligator could temporarily
mistake someone swimming as a competitor male, or perhaps as some other
invader of its territory, and attack.
there any defensive methods if attacked by an alligator?
land, back away, then run if an alligator comes out of the water toward
you. If you are in the water, try to get to shore. As a last resort,
fight back by hitting the animal in the face, even though the effort
may seem futile.
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