See you later Alligator! – How to avoid and survive an attack

Alligator smile

Cute little guy, but also slightly frightening…

I am hoping to visit Florida later this year but have been worried by seeing one too many news articles of people being attacked by alligators. After some research though (which I’m sharing below), I’ve come to the conclusion that attacks are rare and can be mostly avoided by taking a few steps. I’ve seen quite a few people on this forum from the southeast, so please share any additional experience you have.

Florida man killed in possible alligator attack while searching lake for Frisbees  –

Quick summary: Man was out late at night looking for frisbees along a lake and gets attacked by an alligator. Another person finds his body the next morning.

Lessons learned: Don’t walk around bodies of water at night when your visibility is limited and alligators are more active. If you NEED to go around water at night, wear a headlamp and look around for glowing eyes reflecting back at you.

This person also was known to frequent the park and disregard the posted “No Swimming” signs. So follow the rules.

An alligator killed a person near Myrtle Beach in South Carolina

Quick summary: Not too many details here except that the person died near a retention pond.

Lessons learned: So even shallow and man made bodies of water can have alligators.

Woman killed by gator on Kiawah Island was ‘fascinated,’ took pictures before attack

Quick summary: Lady sees a alligator in the pond of a friends house and goes out to take pictures of it. Her friend warns her that the alligator grabbed a deer from that spot the other day and the lady just ignores her and says “I don’t look like a deer.” The lady then goes in to touch the alligator and it grabs and pulls her into the water. The husband of the friend grabs a rope and throws it to her to try and pull her out but the alligator got her to waist deep water and rolled pulling her down and killing her.

Lessons learned: Pretty obvious here to most. Don’t get near alligators, don’t try and pet them. If you are trying to save someone who is being pulled in by one then do what these guys did and throw a rope and don’t go in yourself.

After SC’s 2nd fatal alligator attack in 2 years, incidents remain rare, authorities stress

Quick summary: Lady walks her dog near the water’s edge and the alligator lunges out to eat the dog but only grabs the leash. The lady is able to unhook the dog’s collar but the alligator then pulls her in.

Lessons learned: Again, stay away from the water’s edge in places where alligators might live.

Coroner ID’s mother, 2 young children killed after car hits alligator on I-95

Quick summary: Mother and two young children hit an alligator crossing the road and then crash their car and die.

Lessons learned: They can even get you on the highways. Drive slow, especially around blind corners and hills.

A Florida Girl Survived an Alligator’s Attack by Shoving Her Fingers Up Its Nostrils

Quick summary: Finally a good story. 10 year old girl sitting in some shallow water is bit by an alligator. She thumps it on the head and nothing happens. She then remembers a survival technique she learned when visiting Gatorland and stuck her fingers into it’s nostrils which caused the alligator to open it’s mouth.

Lessons learned: Pick a alligator’s nose if it bites you.

Here’s some comedic ways to deal with alligators/crocodiles. (not recommended):

Hit them over the head with a frying pan 

Get them into a trash can

How to avoid an attack:

These are the areas where the American alligator live


Above image source

From what I learned, there are some crocodiles in Florida, but they are rare and the main threat you are likely to encounter in the USA is the American Alligator. Still, tips on how to avoid them should be about the same.

From CNN article

Spring to early summer is mating season and protective mothers watch over their eggs hatching in September and October. Winter is the safest season because it is cold and they aren’t doing a whole lot.

When temperatures start settling into the 80s (27 Celsius), gators become mostly nocturnal. So it’s best to avoid that refreshing night dip in unknown waters when it’s hot.

Don’t feed, bother, or provoke alligators. Feeding them is bad because it makes them associate humans with food.

Avoid heavy vegetation near the water’s edge where they might be nesting or waiting.

If you are attacked, try poking the eyes or sides of the mouth. If you are on land, avoid the myth of running in a zig-zag and just run in a straight line. If you are caught in the famous death roll, try and roll with it to reduce tearing of your limbs.

From forestwildlife.org

Check for ripples in the water, look for backs, eyes, or snouts sticking above the surface. They are most likely to be near the shoreline, in shallow areas, and in weedy areas.

If you hear this sound near your area, avoid it.

Although, they most likely are going to be silent and stealthy when stalking their prey.

Fight back by punching, kicking, and poking it’s eyes. Try and stuff objects like a life jacket into it’s mouth and trigger its gag reflex.

If you are swimming in the water and see an alligator swimming by, remain calm and stay as still as possible to not draw attention to yourself.


The Legend himself


  • Comments (7)

    • 5

      Two points to add.

      They are unbelievably FAST!  Don’t let that big lumbering body fool you, they can move, especially on their first strike.

      They can climb.  Don’t think a hurricane fence (chain-link) or any fence will protect you, or your kids or pets.  If they can hook their claws into any part of the fence they will go over.

      I grew up on the Texas coast and now live in the South Carolina low county and it baffles me that with all the warnings, visitors insist on behaving around gators like they’re geckos.

      Just remember…big gators know where they are in the food chain.  Also, please note…a 22 will just piss them off.

      • 1

        I didn’t know they could climb!

      • 2

        They can climb! One climbed my uncles five foot tall chain link fence in Florida! Fortunately he saw it in the yard before he let his dog out!

    • 3

      Don’t walk near the water at night, and keep your dog away from the water at all times. Do not feed the gators. This is the number 1 cause of attacks on dogs and humans. 

    • 4

      On land, stay at least 10 feet from any gators and be ready to run fast if needed. Assume a gator can run as fast as the average person but only for short distances.

      If you’re within 10 feet of water where you can’t see the bottom, you may have already broken the first rule. They hide very well in most water, so just assume you won’t see them. And you won’t hear them either unless they want you to hear them.

      If you’re swimming in a lake or stream, your survival depends on the nearest gator’s mood. I wouldn’t risk it.

      Forget all the advice about how to fight back when you’re already in a gator’s mouth. By that time you’ve already messed up bad, and your odds are very low.

      People kill gators a lot more often than vice versa. We are the apex predators if we choose to be. But our great advantage is our brains. If you underestimate a gator and foolishly get within striking range, they can kill you before you have time to react.

      • 2

        One of the sad things about most of these news articles is that it ends with “And the alligator was captured and euthanized”. It’s just being an alligator…

    • 2

      FWIW, gators lose their fear of humans by the time they’ve reached 3 to 4 feet in length. If you see a gator and it’s longer than a yardstick, it is NOT afraid of you – regardless of the size of your biceps or the number of Bud Lights you’ve consumed.

      If you don’t know what a yardstick is, well, just stay away from it anyway.