How to be safe when encountering an alligator
Tuesday, April 25, 2017
(WRDW/WAGT) -- A huge alligator crosses your path, what do you do?
The important thing is not to panic. According to the Savannah River Ecology Lab at the University of Georgia, you are more likely to get struck by lightning or win the lottery than you are to be seriously injured by an alligator.
SREL states that only 11 alligator bites have been recorded since 1948 in South Carolina, none of those bites resulted in anyone dying.
Alligators shouldn't be taken lightly though, they are carnivores after all. SREL has this advice in case you encounter an alligator:
Don’t provide a food source which may alter their diet or allow them to seek out more food from humans. As important as it is not to feed an alligator, you should never feed animals that inhabit the waters near them; this includes ducks, turtles, and fish. Feeding an alligator is actually against the law, and you could be fined up to $150 or spend 30 days behind bars.
It’s a common myth that alligators are slow and awkward. SREL states that they’re actually extremely powerful and can move quickly over land on short distances. A safe distance from an adult alligator is about 60 feet. If the alligator hisses or lunges toward you, you are too close.
It's unlikely to be chased by one, as they tire quickly and run in a straight line. A common myth is running in a zig-zag pattern to escape one, but SREL says that this is unnecessary.
If an alligator crosses the road, it’s best to just let it cross. Leave it alone. Don’t try to pick it up and move it, as it may become aggressive. You should never corner an alligator as it may make them feel threatened, which will make them react defensively.
It’s illegal to harass or throw things at an alligator. It’s also illegal to kill them in some states. SREL states that it is not productive to annoy an alligator, as they are living organisms that should be respected.
Female alligators are protective of their young and will be aggressive when their young are in danger; they will react by hissing, lunging, or swimming toward you to signal you to go away. Baby alligators should never be captured, even if the mother is not visible.
While it is illegal in some states, you can hunt alligators when they are in season in Georgia and South Carolina. However, each state has different regulations and protections.
Many may feel tempted to keep a baby alligator as a pet, but this is a very bad idea and is illegal in some states. They start out to be small and helpless, but will eventually grow to become a predator.
When alligators are hungry, they act on their hunting instinct and will likely eat pets. SREL says this is because they do not distinguish between domestic animals and wild food sources.
Keep your dogs on leashes around them and do not allow your animals or children in or near waters where an alligator may be.
SREL says that you should never swim in areas where large alligators may be, or at the very least never swim alone and be careful around water. To an alligator, a splash means a potential food source is in the water. Alligators may act on instinct or feel threatened and attack.
If you’re fishing in waters where alligators may be, be careful as they may grab a hooked fish. Also, avoid heavy brush in or near the water as alligators use this area to relax or hide from unsuspecting prey.
Alligators are very much like bumblebees, in the same sense that it will leave you alone if you leave it alone.
If you’re in a boat or canoe and an alligator goes into the water near you, don’t panic. SREL says it’s very unlikely that an alligator will go into the water to attack you. They are trying to move to another location where they feel safer.
Since the year 2000, alligator attacks have risen in the US. According to CrocBITE, the largest number of attacks occurred in 2005 when 14 were injured and two died from alligator attacks. At least 12 people were injured in 2012. There were 12 more people were attacked in 2015, and, of those there were five deaths.
The good news though is that you’re more likely to get attacked by a Saltwater Crocodile than an American Alligator. There are no Saltwater Crocodiles in the United States.
You’re more than likely to encounter alligators in the spring and summer when they are breeding.
There are major differences between Alligators and Crocodiles. While they belong to the same family, they are not the same animal.
Alligators are less aggressive than crocodiles and tend to have a darker appearance. They can live on land as well as in the water and have longer, more V-shaped heads. All their teeth are hidden when their mouths are shut. They’re also mostly only found in the US and China.
Crocodiles are better adapted to living in or near seawater and are more aggressive than alligators. They have longer, more V-shaped heads. The fourth tooth on each side of the lower jaw sticks up over the upper lip, giving them a sort of grinning appearance. They have a lighter complexion than alligators and can be found all over the world.
So, keep these facts and advice in mind, in case you encounter one of these very large reptiles in your journey. The best advice is just to leave them alone and let them go about their business.