There are around 1.3 million alligators in the United States Of America, most of them located in Florida. The once threatened alligator population has increased and is stable, but alligators are still protected in the USA. They occupy the waterways of Florida, which are also popular with kayakers. Is this a safe co-existence, or are the kayakers asking for trouble?
Alligators are unlikely to attack a kayak if the situation is calm and the rowing is smooth. However, any flurry in the water attracts alligators. The alligators seldom attack a kayak if left alone, but there is always a risk when dealing with large predators. There are some measures that increase safety, which we will discuss.
The number of alligator-people encounters has increased due to the increased number of alligators and people using waterways for recreation. As a result, there have inevitably been some incidences of alligator attacks.
Are Alligators Aggressive?
Many have seen video clips or images of crocodiles attacking people or animals. These are almost always African and Australian crocodiles. Alligators in North America are far more docile and less aggressive than these fearsome beasts.
Alligators do not generally regard people on land as their prey under normal circumstances. However, people in the water are a different story.
Inevitably there have been some deaths and injuries due to alligators attacking people. The statisticians say you have a one in 3.1 million chance of being attacked by an alligator.
Alligators, therefore, are not usually described as aggressive. Still, there are always exceptions in the animal world due to individual variation, the animal’s experience, and differing circumstances.
Do Alligators See Kayaks As Prey Items?
Alligators, unlike sharks, do not usually view the bottom side of kayaks as a potential meal. There are very few reports of alligators carrying out unprovoked attacks on kayaks. They seldom want to take on a large prey item, and kayaks form a significant presence in the water.
Alligators’ regular diet consists of fish, snakes, turtles, birds, and small mammals. These prey items are much smaller than either a kayak or a human.
When Is A Good Time To Kayak And Avoid Alligators?
Alligators are most active between sundown and sunrise. In other words, they do most of their hunting under cover of night. However, during the day, they are usually seen sunning themselves on the banks of the river. This is essential as reptiles are coldblooded and need an outside source to warm up their bodies.
The best time to kayak is approximately two to three hours after dawn, as the majority of the alligators will be basking at that time. Avoid kayaking during the night, early in the morning, or late afternoon.
What Circumstance Could Cause An Alligator Attack On A Kayak?
Alligators are triggered by movement in the water. Rowing with a sharp choppy stroke that causes splashing and many ripples in the water would attract the attention of alligators. Likewise, a smooth, gliding stroke would be the best way to row when kayaking among alligators.
Kayaking near the shoreline could be perceived as aggressive by the alligators. They may not see the kayak as prey, but they may view it as another large predator threatening them. Therefore, it is wisest to keep your distance and ensure you do not provoke the alligator in any way.
There are numerous reports of, usually young, men provoking and teasing alligators. An alligator that is not ordinarily aggressive is easily stirred into attacking what it perceives as a threat. Unfortunately, the alligator is almost always the victor in these clashes.
Will An Alligator Attack If I Fall Out My Kayak?
Should you and your kayak unexpectedly part company in an alligator-infested area, it would be a serious cause for concern. Splashing and swimming furiously to try and get back into the kayak will alert the alligators that would view you as a possible meal. People swimming in rivers are one of the most reported targets of alligator attacks.
On land, an alligator may not see humans as a meal, but in the water, the alligator is in its element. Kicking, splashing, and frantic movements in the water trigger the alligator into thinking a weak, helpless animal could easily be his next meal.
Choose a stable kayak and always wear a life vest that can keep you afloat. If you fall into the river, keep yourself calm and make as little water movement as possible while trying to get out of the river or get back into the kayak.
Do Not Feed Alligators
Alligators that people have fed lose their fear of man and associate people with food. A dangerous consequence!
Although it may seem incomprehensible, there are a few scenarios in which people deliberately or inadvertently feed alligators.
- People deliberately feed alligators in their area for their own gratification.
- People feed ducks or other wildlife at the edge of a river, creating an easy target for the alligator. The alligator still associates that food with people.
- Fishermen may throw waste away after cleaning their fish. This attracts alligators, and the association is formed.
- People using the river for recreation and kayakers eating their lunch throw unwanted pieces into the river. The alligator is there for an easy meal and associates food with humans.
Alligators fed by people are dangerous to kayakers and every person they might come into contact with.
They will attack people unprovoked. Alligators move along the river to new locations. People and kayakers are unknowingly exposed to this now dangerous animal.
Is There A Season When Alligators Are More Aggressive?
Alligators become more aggressive during mating and reproduction. This correlates to early April to June of each year. At this time, they may also be more active during the day.
Male alligators are much more dominant and territorial, fighting each other for the right to mate with the female. Kayakers caught up in these spats may be tipped into the water, which is not a desirable outcome.
Once a female alligator has laid her eggs, she begins guarding the mound and will continue protecting the area around the nest for up to two years. Baby alligators are easy pickings for predators—the mother alligator guards as many as she can to ensure their survival.
If you inadvertently stumble into a female alligator’s territory, try to remove yourself as fast as possible with as little noise and fuss as you can. Females will generally hiss and blow initially, but a swift attack will follow this if you do not move fast to get out of there.
Avoid kayaking in areas known for mating and nesting alligators.
What To Do When Attacked By An Alligator While Kayaking?
There are some essential survival tips for an alligator attack.
- Try to stay aboard the kayak and row as fast as possible to get away. You may have just irritated a nesting female that will not follow you.
- If the alligator lunges for the kayak, hit it on the snout with your paddle.
- If the alligator grabs you and begins to roll, go with the roll so that you limit the damage to your body.
- Fight with everything you have.
- Stick your fingers into the alligator’s eyes.
- Use wedge sticks or stones to stick them down its throat to activate the gag reflex.
Alligators want easy meals, not ones they have to work hard to keep.
Alligators do not generally attack kayaks. However, mating and reproduction seasons cause the alligators to be more active and aggressive.
Do not kayak at night in alligator-infested water and never provoke alligators. Keep your distance from them; keep movements calm and quiet so that the water is disturbed as little as possible.
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