Never approach an alligator,
including a baby or a nest.
The alligator is naturally wary of humans, and will
flee quickly if you get too close to it, or it may utter a very audible
and compelling warning hiss. In some cases, however, alligators may
charge or attack. Here are some examples of such cases:
• An alligator that is accustomed to being
fed by humans may not be so shy, but instead is attracted to
your presence. This condition is vey rare in the wild.
• An alligator that is surprised and alarmed
by your approach may attack, thinking that it is being attacked
• A mother alligator caring for her nest or
for live babies, as seen in the image below. If you see alligator babies, or if you
encounter a nest (a usually a mound of vegetation mixed with mud), enjoy
the experience from a safe distance...momma 'gator is sure to be close
by. If you get close, the mother may sound a very audible and
intimidating warning hiss. Such a nest may be difficult to identify for
a non-expert, but it is likely the mother will issue you a warning.
(Image N. B.)
The alligator mother is well-known to be practically
fearless when defending her offspring, whether the little ones have
hatched or not. A mother was observed leaping, jaws agape, to
attack a helicopter as it approached the nest area to land! (The
helicopter was carrying biologists surveying alligator nests.) You may
learn more about the mothers care of her babies in the "Neonate
Also be careful near heavy vegetation
in or near the water's edge. This is where an alligator likes to
enjoy privacy and peace during the daylight hours. If you trudge
through there and surprise it, the outcome may not be positive;
consider making a little noise, such as rattling a set of keys.
Generally, a good minimum land distance to keep
between you and an alligator or nest is 15 feet/ 4.6 meters.
Did You Know? Most human attack
victims are male - a whopping 84%.
Some adventurous individuals believe that they can grapple with
smaller gators without risk of serious injury -- and they are quite mistaken.
A smaller alligator, even 5 ft/1.5 m long, may remove a limb, let alone a
finger, and resulting lacerations alone can keep a surgeon busy
for hours in an operating room.
An alligator will often lay on land with jaws agape,
and seldom is this a sign of imminent attack, especially if it is far
from you. In doing this, it is believed, the reptile is merely trying to
regulate its body temperature by
letting heat escape its body, sort of like the panting of a dog.
Generally, this is not a behavior to be wary of (learn more about this
behavior in the "Thermoregulation" section..
(Image: © istockphoto/PaulMerritt)