Humans are not well equipped to defend themselves compared to most other animals. Our best defense is our brain which allows us to think of ways to outwit and use tools to deter animal attacks. Alligators can grow extremely large, and as apex predators, they pose a considerable threat to kayakers entering their domain. Some kayakers believe you can use bear spray on alligators but is this effective, and what other defense tips can help?
Bear spray is composed of capsaicin (pepper) and other capsaicinoids. Reptiles are immune to these active ingredients, and bear spray will not deter alligators. The best defense is to avoid alligator encounters. If attacked by alligators, you should make a noise and attack their sensitive areas.
Thinking through scenarios before they occur is a good strategy in helping people react properly if they are ever in a life-threatening situation. Therefore, knowing what to do if an alligator attacks you is helpful and how to avoid confrontations is helpful.
Does Bear Spray Deter Alligators?
Many believe it is logical that if bear spray can stop a bear attack, it should also stop alligators. The critical concept to remember is that bears and alligators are from different animal groups. Bears are mammals, and alligators are reptiles.
Bear spray contains mainly capsaicin and related capsaicinoids. Capsaicin is the ingredient in pepper that burns our mouths, make our eyes water and cause us to sneeze.
Why Bear Spray Won’t Repel Alligators
For a taste, smell, or touch to register with an animal, receptors must be sensitive to those stimuli. Receptors are specialized nerve endings designed to be sensitive to specific stimuli.
Mammals have different receptors than reptiles. Bear spray is effective on bears because they have receptors to capsaicin and related capsaicinoids. It would also work on humans and other mammals because all mammals have these receptors.
Reptiles do not have receptors to the active ingredients in peppers. As a result, the bear spray won’t deter alligators, and you may lose valuable reaction time by using the spray.
Most personal protection sprays contain the same active ingredients as bear spray and would be ineffective on alligators.
Are There Any Sprays That Would Deter Alligators?
Currently, there are no sprays that would deter alligators from attacking kayaks. However, there is a theory that ammonia mixed with human urine will deter alligators from approaching homes when spread around the property.
This alligator deterrent spray has mixed reviews amongst those that have used it. It has never been used while an alligator is attacking. Additionally, it would not work for kayakers as the water will dilute most of the mixture when sprayed.
What Devices Might Deter Alligators?
Alligators have excellent hearing, and they are also opportunistic hunters. Therefore, they prefer to catch their prey with minimum fuss. These factors cause alligators to be averse to loud noises, especially when trying to take down prey.
Air horns emit sounds that range from 120 to 175 decibels (dB). To provide some reference, if you stood next to a jet aircraft during take-off, you would be exposed to approximately 120dB. Air horns are very loud, and using one of them may deter an attacking alligator.
If an alligator is charging, you can use loud whistles such as those used for personal protection.
Some dog whistles are designed to be heard more than a mile away, producing 142dB of sound. They may also be a helpful purchase for kayakers who frequent alligator-infested waters.
Tips To Stop An Alligator Charging A Kayak
If you do not have a sound-producing device and an alligator is charging, you can use the equipment in your hands. For example, slapping the water with your paddle may stop an alligator. You can also try slapping your paddle against the side of the kayak.
Shouting and making very loud noises may make the alligator think twice. Also, avoid high-pitched screaming as most predators react to this by increasing their attack as many prey animals scream when attacked.
You can also try paddling backward while keeping your eyes on the alligator. The alligator may be doing a mock charge, and if you back up, it will stop.
What To Do If An Alligator Is Attacking Your Kayak?
Alligators won’t usually tip a kayaker over, but it can happen, especially when panicked. If this happens, right your kayak and climb back in. Some kayaks are designed to stand a minor roll under the water, popping upright again. Stay with your kayak so you can get out of the water.
If you lose your kayak, get into a friend’s kayak or try to get out of the water. If there is an overhanging branch you can reach, pull yourself up onto that.
If the alligator has bitten you, fight with all your strength. Alligators, like every animal, have sensitive eyes. Stabbing your fingers into the alligator’s eyes may make it let go of you.
Alligators have many sensitive organs on their snouts, designed to monitor pressure and vibrations in the water. These receptors make their snouts vulnerable.
Punching and slapping the snout as hard as possible may help your fight.
If the alligator grabs your arm, use your nails to scratch the inside of its mouth. If it comes at you with an open mouth and you have a stick or your paddle, shove it in the alligator’s mouth as hard as possible.
Do not stop fighting, and do not play dead. Biologists and conservationists that work with alligators note that playing dead is a big mistake, giving the alligator a chance to pull you under the water to drown you.
Alligators are well known for rolling their prey underwater. The aim of this is to tear off pieces of the prey. If you can roll with the alligator and continue fighting, you may prevent catastrophic injuries that cause you to bleed to death. In addition, it may give you more time to continue fighting.
Being attacked by an alligator is a frightening and life-threatening event. Therefore, it is best to avoid confrontations with alligators by taking precautions. In the event of an alligator attack, make loud noises, get out of the water if you can, and fight.
As a kayaker, you invade the alligator’s territory whenever you enter the waters. You need to be aware of that and take the necessary precautions, and you most likely won’t have to worry about an attack.
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