What to do if you see an alligator and how to survive an attack, according to a wildlife expert who keeps pet gators

What to do if you see an alligator and how to survive an attack, according to a wildlife expert who keeps pet gators
  • If an alligator charges you, run away as fast as you can in a straight line. Don't zig-zag.

  • If an alligator bites you, don't try to pry its jaws open. Instead, smack its snout or go for its eyes.

  • Whatever you do, don't play dead or you might end up dead.

This article is primarily transcribed from a 2018 Insider video on "How to survive an alligator attack." Some of the information has been updated.

For years, Hollywood movies have shown humans at war with alligators and their crocodilian cousins. Either they're attacking us, or we're attacking them.

But, in reality, alligators don't often attack humans. That said, it does happen, and if one attacks you, what should you do? And perhaps more importantly, what shouldn't you do?

Alligators don't eat people

Illustration of dinosaurs and what looks like an ancient alligator species.
Alligators have been lurking in Earth's waters for tens of millions of years.Corey Ford/Stocktrek Images/Getty Images

American alligators have been around for as long as the dinosaurs — over 150 million years. But unlike dinosaurs, alligators stuck around.

There are nearly 5 million alligators in the United States. They live throughout the Southeast, from Texas to North Carolina. But most of them are concentrated in Florida.

In fact, the Sunshine State is home to around 1.3 million alligators, and that's where the majority of alligator attacks take place.

As of 2022, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has reported 453 alligator attacks on humans in the state and 26 fatalities since it started keeping records in the late 1940s.

"You're more likely to be attacked by a dog or even killed by a cow than have an encounter, a negative one, with an alligator," Corbin Maxey — a biologist and wildlife expert who keeps pet alligators of his own — told Insider for a video in 2018.

"Alligators, they can be dangerous, but just like with wildlife, if you leave them alone, they will more than likely want to leave you alone," Maxey said.

How alligators hunt prey

An alligator in the water where you can only see its eyes.
Alligators are sneak-attack predators that pounce on their prey at the last second with lightning speed.Daniela Duncan/Getty Images

Sure, alligators can be vicious, technically they're apex predators, albeit very patient ones.

"They're ambush predators, usually all you'll see, if you're really even lucky to see, 'cause they're so good at camouflage, are the little eyes above the water. They would be eating mammals like raccoons, waterbirds, turtles, and deer on occasion. And they literally will sneak up to their prey and then whack! The prey won't even know usually what gets it, but they are incredibly fast," Maxey said.

Alligators are usually pretty chill, as long as you respect their space.

"There are rare instances, of course, where females might be guarding a nest, and if you're in Florida, or you're in an area where alligators are found, and you come across a nest with a female, she is going to be angry, and she will come after you," Maxey said.

How to fight an alligator

A man crouching next to three alligators on a gator farm in Florida.
Uh, don't do this. This is a great example of what NOT to do. This guy is on a gator farm and (hopefully) knows what he's doing.Tony Anderson/Getty Images

If an alligator charges after you, the first step you should take is to run. Run in a straight line as far and fast from the gator as possible. Don't try to run in a zig-zag pattern, as that'll just take you longer to go farther.

Alligators are quick and can run up to a speed of 11 mph, but they can't sustain that very long.

But what if it's too late? And that gator sinks its teeth into you? Fight back!

"You want to fight back, you want to give it your all, because that will more than likely allow the alligator to release you — they're going to realize, oh gosh, I don't want to deal with this," Maxey said.

Don't try to pry open the jaws. You're dealing with a bite force of 3,000 pounds.

Some experts say that while fighting back, you should smack the gator's sensitive snout, and also try to gouge the gator's eyes.

"I feel like that's easier said than done. When you have something sudden happen to you, it's going to be very hard to be like, 'Oh wait, where are the eyes?' you know?" Maxey said. "So I think the best thing to do would be to fight back, put up a fight, definitely don't play dead. If you play dead, you might become dead," Maxey added.

But perhaps most important, stay out of their territory.

"When alligators do attack humans or bite them, it's mainly by mistake, and then usually they'll let go, 'cause they'll realize, ah, this isn't a deer, this isn't a raccoon, this is foreign object, this is not something that I would want to eat," Maxey said.

Lucky us.

Watch the original video here:

Read the original article on Business Insider