Humans have been known to go to great lengths for their pets. For proof, look no further than Florida resident Mike McCoy, who can boast of having wrestled an alligator to save his dog. Those who are curious should know that he was walking his dog when an alligator sprang out of the water, seized his dog, and then sprang back into the water. McCoy saw that the alligator had entered into a death roll, a move that crocodilians use to disable, dismember, and otherwise damage their target. Fortunately, he had read up on alligators, which provided him with the confidence to jump in, get around the alligator, drive his thumb into its eye, drag the alligator out of the water, and then keep it there until it relinquished his dog. Both McCoy and his dog winded up needing stiches, but the fact remains that both of them managed to walk away from the incident. Meanwhile, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission made it clear that it intended to trap the alligator, which is a common way to handle such incidents.
How Common Are Alligators?
Some people might be wondering how common alligators are supposed to be. If so, they might be surprised by the fact that alligators aren’t common at all in the grand scheme of things. For starters, the order Crocodilia consists of 24 extant species. However, it is important to note that the order Crocodilia is divided up into three families, which would be the true crocodiles, the alligators and the caimans, and the gharial and the false gharial. In turn, the alligators consist of just two extant species, with one being the American alligator and the other being the Chinese alligator.
Unsurprisingly, the alligators that can be found in the United States are American alligators. They have a strong association with the state of Florida. However, American alligators can be found in other states as well, not least because they are more cold-resistant than American crocodiles that drown in temperatures of 45 °F or less. Regardless, American alligators were under a real threat of extinction because of both hunting and habitat loss in the 20th century, but a combined effort from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as well as its state-level counterparts in the American South has enabled them to make a comeback. Thanks to this, the species was removed from the list of endangered species back in 1987 because there are now more than a million of them.
How Dangerous Are Alligators Anyways?
American alligators aren’t as dangerous as what these animal attack stories would suggest. For those who are curious, there is a 2010 report that states that there were 567 so-called “adverse encounters” between alligators and humans in the United States from 1928 to 2009. Out of the 567 incidents, 260 incidents resulted in the need for medical intervention beyond first aid while the rest were much more minor in nature. Furthermore, there were 24 deaths in the eight-decade period, which is bad but nowhere near as bad as the numbers for some of the other species out there. This is particularly true because there are a lot of people living in close proximity to a lot of alligators, which increases the chances of such incidents happening.
That might sound a bit callous. However, interested individuals should note the context for these numbers. American alligators are one of eight crocodilian species that have been known to launch unprovoked attacks on humans. The previous numbers suggest that its fatality rate is 6 percent, which is relatively low when compared with either the Nile crocodile’s 63 percent fatality rate or even the saltwater crocodile’s 25 to 50 percent fatality rate. As for why this is the case, there seems to be a couple of major factors. One, alligators have been hunted for a very long time, so much so that they were at a real risk of becoming extinct at one point in time. As such, a lot of alligators have become cautious of humans, which doesn’t make them inclined towards attacking the latter. Two, alligators are apparently choosier eaters than the aforementioned crocodilians. They will eat everything from birds and reptiles to fish and mammals, but they tend to eat animals that are smaller than adult humans, meaning that the latter is out of their normal predation range. Meanwhile, crocodiles are more than willing to go after large mammals, which explains much about the enthusiasm with which they target humans. Indeed, there is an estimate that about 1,000 fatalities occur on an annual basis because of crocodiles. Something that says much about the difference between the danger posed by alligators versus the danger posed by crocodiles.
How Can You Avoid Alligator Attacks?
Having said that, it is still a good idea for people to read up on avoiding alligator attacks if they live in either Florida or some other part of the American alligator’s range. Fortunately, a lot of the recommendations are just a matter of common sense. For example, people should avoid feeding either alligators or other animals in places where alligators might live. This is because this will teach alligators to associate humans with food, thus encouraging them to approach the latter in search of it. As such, this kind of activity is illegal, which can result in up to $150 in fines and up to 30 days in jail. Similarly, people are supposed to stay away from alligators. Part of this is because cornering alligators can cause them to feel threatened, which in turn, can cause them to become aggressive. However, it should also be mentioned that alligators are capable of bursts of surprising speed over short distances. Something that people don’t want to be on the receiving end of. Other recommendations range from avoiding places where alligators might live to avoiding small alligators that might be watched over by a protective mother alligator.
As for when people come under attack by an alligator, the recommendation seems to be running if possible but becoming aggressive if running isn’t possible in response. Apparently, interested individuals should do their best to make noise, attack the alligator, and otherwise do their best to convince the alligator that it isn’t worth it. If possible, it might be worthwhile to go for either the eyes or the snout. However, trying to pry open its jaws is a lost cause from the very start. Of course, if interested individuals get wounded, they should make sure to seek out medical attention, not least because alligator-inflicted wounds have a good chance of becoming infected.