By the Dozen*
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aware on, in or near water.
Never let children or pets near the water
without close supervision.
Alligators are opportunistic hunters. They prefer to
wait for prey to get close, and lunge to seize it. Adults and children
alike should be very aware of their surroundings near
the water's edge; that embankment area of a water body, where land meets
liquid, is often covered in vegetation in which the 'gator can hide,
making it the reptile's favorite lurking place. And remember: the smaller the potential 'prey,' such as child or a pet,
the more attractive to the alligator simply because it is easier to take.
Avoid swimming in a water body known to be
inhabited by alligators.
You already know this -- it doesn't take a
scientist to figure this one out. Many municipalities or residential
developments post warning signs, but the absence of such a sign doesn't
mean there are no alligators. Bear in mind that most water bodies in
alligator states contain them.
In the water, you look much smaller to an
alligator, even if you happen to be 6 ft 4 in/1.9m tall while
walking upright on land. The 'gator may not think of taking a
tall man as a meal while that human is standing on the water's
edge, but being in the water puts the man in the alligator's
watery hunting field, where the he appears smaller on a liquid plane, and where the
reptile has the advantage. Statistics show that the average age of an
attack victim is 34 years.
Usually, the safest swimming areas are in frequented,
supervised parks, where lots of cars parking and humans talking, shouting and splashing
tend to ward off the alligators. Even if you swim in areas that are known
to be generally 'gator-free, never swim alone. Should an attack occur
and you have a buddy to help you, your chance of escaping is much
greater. Swim only within posted swimming areas; venturing beyond
that you enter deeper into the realm of the alligator, and away from
potential safety or help.
(Image: © istockphoto/LUGO)
Did You Know?
90% of attacks occur on persons wading
or swimming at water's edge (this is where the
alligator is apt to lunge at prey that approach the water).
Also, never enter water at night. Alligators are most
active, especially for seeking prey, from dusk until dawn. And the fact
that you can't see well in the dark makes for a much more dangerous
Finally, avoid consuming alcohol
when enjoying the water, even in daytime. Evidence in some Florida
alligator attack incidents, as well as some of those involving the
crocodiles in Australia, shows that the victims were under the influence
of alcohol, or worse, crack cocaine. You need
your wits about you when swimming to avoid drowning, let alone being
wary of alligators. So, don't drink and dive.
Do you have a water body on your
property? If so, there is a way in which you may be able to
determine if there is an alligator living in it, even if you
don't normally see one, though this
method is not perfect: Carefully approach the water body at
night with a flashlight. Hold the light near your face at eye
level, directing the light at the water. Then slowly and
scan the surface for reflections of an alligator's
eye. The alligator eye reflects an orange "glow" when
illuminated. A photo of this kind of reflection is shown at left. Note that the image was captured at dawn or dusk, so the
reflection is not as intense as it would be in the dark of
night. Learn more about this glow on this site's page dealing
with the alligator's body features,
Always be careful near a body of water
(as discussed above) as an alligator, if present, may be on or near
the bank. Also, when scanning for eyeshine, bear in mind that an
alligator may be underwater or otherwise obscured at the moment
you scan a given area, so this method is not perfect; you may
need to try many scans at different times, Also, consider that
you may detect the "eyeshine" of different small animals, which
should not be mistaken for 'gators.