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Of all the animals that you can find in America, alligators are one of the few species that can shrug off attempts at warding them off. They’re big, they look mean, they are armored, and there have been documented cases of gators attacking people.

While assaults by these large reptiles are rare, they’re common enough in southeastern states that authorities recommend plenty of caution. In Florida, where gator attacks are more frequent, there have been over 300 attacks on humans from 1948 – 2016 according to The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).  Of these attacks, 24 were fatal, including that of 2-year-old Lane Graves in 2016.

Even if attacks are rare, alligators are common enough in some states that it’s always safer to assume that any body of water has a gator in it.

Look before you leap into the water. It’s not uncommon for gators to be found in pools in Florida. Original video owned by Fox13 News Tampa.

See you never, alligator

Although alligators rarely seek a human for a meal, unexpected encounters are dangerous and best to be avoided, especially with a pack. Here are some ways to avoid crossing one.

    • Heed the signs
      Take warning signs seriously. Do not venture into areas where signs warn about the presence of alligators. Once you see the sign, do a 180 turn and walk away, especially when it happens to be dark.

 

    • Watch the water
      Almost all gator attacks happen in or near the water. Avoid murky water and don’t swim in undesignated swimming areas. While they’re usually found in swamps, marshes and rivers, gators finding their way into urban areas and into backyard pools aren’t unheard of. If for some reason you need to jog or a hike in areas where gators are to be expected, keep at least 10 feet away from the edge of the water.

      Alligators can be stealthy creatures, and spotting them can be difficult until it’s too late

    • Nighttime is nope time
      These reptiles can attack anytime, but being nocturnal creatures, they’re most active when it’s dark. Stay away from bodies of water during the night. If it’s unavoidable, carry a flashlight with you to lessen the chances of bumping into one.

 

    • Mating season is gator season
      Most alligator attacks happen during their mating season, when the males are more aggressive and the females are more territorial. Be more aware of gator presence between the months of March and July.

 

    • Dispose of your trash properly
      Fish scraps and other items that these reptiles may see as food should be disposed of properly. Do not throw these items into the water or else it will attract them to your location.

 

  • Respect their authority
    If you happen to see a bundle of dried grass and twigs near a body of water with some eggs in it, assume that it’s an alligator’s nest and walk away as soon as you can. Nesting female alligators are fiercely protective of their nest, and will attack anything that goes near it.

    An alligator nest is bad news– Momma gator is usually nearby, and she’s very protective of her young.

  • Keep them out
    Thanks to recent conservation efforts, the gator population in the southeast has boomed. This, coupled with encroaching urban sprawl, has also led to a rise in gator encounters. Fencing around your home could deter them from entering your property, as well as their food source like deer and wild hogs.

If you happen to encounter an alligator outside its natural habitat, contact the police or animal services as soon as you can so trained professionals can reel in the wayward creature and return it to its rightful environment.

Surviving an attack

Gators avoid confrontation with humans, but when cornered or if you encounter an aggressive one, they’re one of the few animals that won’t back down. Such surprise encounters are likely to happen because they’re stealthy and blend well to their surroundings. While prevention is the best way for you to survive these beasts, knowing how to survive an encounter is practical knowledge worth knowing.

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    • Run!
      The best way to survive is to increase your distance from the reptile in the shortest possible time. In short: run away in a straight line!It will help if you run away from it at an angle, forcing the gator to turn its half-ton body, which is no easy task for the creature. While younger and lighter alligators can sprint at up to 25 mph for a couple of seconds, full-grown gators usually can’t top 10 mph, and it’s possible for an average human in reasonable physical condition to outrun them.

 

    • Fight!
      If you’re caught by surprise and an alligator manages to clamp its jaws on you, do whatever you can to fight it. Even if they’re apex predators, these animals are lazy and would prefer to duke it out against smaller and weaker animals. Thrash around and give it a difficult time securing a hold on you. Make loud noises to discourage it (and attract the attention of others who can help you).

 

  • Take out an eye (or two)!
    While it can be difficult for an alligator to release you after it’s clamped down on you, poking or digging out its eye can be painful enough for the creature to release you. With its tough hide, its eyes are the most vulnerable part of its body that you have access to and the only way that you can hurt it with your bare hands. After surviving an alligator attack, seek medical attention immediately and get your wounds treated to avoid an infection.

    An alligator’s eye is its most vulnerable part of its body and aggressively attacking it is the only sure way for you to hurt it, and possibly the only way to make it release you from its jaws.

While it’s more likely for you to be attacked by a dog, alligator attacks are still a serious concern for those living in or visiting areas where they have to share their space with them. Stay sharp, know the signs, and keep your wits with you during an attack to survive.