alligator-when will the hysteria end?

Yesterday we had some friends of ours daughter with my kids and wanted to go to the local lake and go kayaking. We ahve a KEA that the kids play with. Her mother called expressedly forbidding her to go kayaking. After a couple of friendly queries, it turns out that the Mom is very worried about aligator attacks. I tried to tell her that I had never seen an alligator in that lake and I paddle it every day, and that the chances of even seeing one in the middle of a hot day were slim to none but she didn’t want to hear it.

I just think it is a damned shame that we instill this fear into our kids without proper education and alligators as well as sharks become menancing calculating monsters just waiting for a chance for someone to not look so they can POUNCE! so we should restrict walking on the sidewalk because there may be a rattler? or a rabid dog? I know I am ranting.

Education would go a long way here.

wonder when the hysteria will end.



– Last Updated: May-28-06 8:42 AM EST –

I'd rather have alligators than fishermen! The amount of nylon line, soda/beer cans/bottles, bait containers, snack wrappings, etc., etc, that I clean up EVERY time I go paddling at our local lake is disgusting! I'll take a reptile over a trashy human any day! Talk about education!

Two points if I may
1. the hysteria never started with me. I have been paddling around them for thirty years.

You can thank our sensational news media for what is happening now.

2. You would be more likly to see one on a hot sunny day though. They like turtles like to crawl up on a log or beach so the sun can kill the harmful bacteria that form on their hides.

The colder the day, the less likly you are to see one.



I agree!
Our little north park lake here in western pa has become filthy since the day trout season opened. My family and I helped stock this lake twice this spring and it was clean - now not only do i paddle and pick up their garbage (much fish related) but i have to listen to their rude remarks about being there and disturbing “their” fish. Imagine that !

an alligator FAQ?

– Last Updated: May-28-06 12:38 PM EST –

I would be very interested in reading, and passing along a FAQ on alligators & paddling, if those of you who regularly paddle alligator waters would be so kind as to put one together. The wisdom or folly of paddling with alligators has been a frequent topic of conversation since about Easter weekend, that intensified with the very publicized attacks in FL this Spring. I'd like to have something to show folks other than the very sparse data on alligator attacks in general. For instance, what do you do if your boat is "bumped" by an alligator? How likely is it that the gator will come back and overturn the boat? (not very, I'd imagine) Would smacking a gator with a paddle be wise, or extremely stupid? (I'm thinking of the old lady who fended one off by beating on it.) Is it sane to paddle in alligator infested waters? What density of alligators in a pond would constitute a relative danger? What to tell people who are EXTREMELY worried about alligators and/or sharks, bears, etc? (I've tried quoting stats and relative likilihoods of encounters, but pretty much figure my GF won't ever believe that going anywhere near any of these things is ever a viable option.)

sorry. you are of course right about sighting. I guess I meant in the water around you while paddling. I could be wrong there too though. I like the idea of a FAQ such as the previous poster suggested.


canoeing across alligator backs in Okee
-fenokee swamp in S. Ga. Well, that’s how it seemed as it was during one of the worst droughts the area had seen and all of the gators for miles around had congregated in Billie’s Lake. They were seriously everywhere you looked and so hungry that they were actually cannibalizing- which the ranger said is very rare.

Anyway, my 70 yr. old, ever the adventurer, mother and I spent two days canoeing with them, and over them, and being inadvertently bumped by them, and not once did we feel threatened as they simply were not interested in us!

Maybe we were being niave but there were other paddlers (canoes) and small motor boats out there too and no-one, human that is, was eaten! Great memory! I’d ask some experts again though, were I taking my kids, just to be sure.

Something we seem to be missing
is the fact that alligators are wild animals…we’re encroaching on their habitat and that can be a problem, especially in areas where people think it cute to feed them. I don’t believe Alligators are vegetarians and my hats off to the lady that said don’t take my kids near them. She was better to err on the side of caution, which is more the sign of a good parent than a bad one. Something to remember is alligators don’t think as nobly as Disney productions would lead you to believe. In the wild they function to do what alligators do. I do agree that education is the key, but it should be driven by actual knowledge then what we think we know.

Wording Matters
(I’m thinking of the old lady who beat one off.) Sickos, like me, could have fun with the way you worded that.

require caution and respect. There are very real behavioral differences seasonally as well as locally. May and June are months of intense hormonal surges and nests are well protected by Mom. Locally here in South Florida, there are irresponsible souls who will feed the beasts and alter normal interaction with man. Fall and winter tend to be fairly safe months, although female gators will protect their juveniles for almost a year after hatching.

My kids are 12 and 10 years of age and we paddle regularly in areas where gators are present. We generally use a Wenonah Spirit which is a large canoe and we have been bumped by a nest protecting female. We stay observant, use caution and treat all of nature with due respect. Here in South Florida greedy developers and drunken drivers are the real threat.

for what it is worth on my paddling in and around them for the past thirty years;

  1. We have been in some areas such as the outfall of the lower Myakka River where there were eight and ten footers (dozens of them) lined up only a few feet apart on the mud banks and before we even got close to them they were scrambling to get away.
  2. the only time we have ever been “bumped” by one is when they were trying to get away from us, and the only escape route was directly under us in shallow water or we had their route from land to water blocked and as they made their leap to the water, part of them would bump the boat.
  3. I wouldn’t hesitate to paddle in a pond, lake, river or swamp that was “infested” (to use your terminology) with them.

    On the other hand it would be stupid to swim in an area like that.
  4. I would not trust one in the area where fishermen are know to clean their fish, since they are expecting you to fed them and just like any wild animal will associate you as a food source
  5. I had one eight foot mother take a swipe with her jaws at the front of my yak and that was my own fault.

    I was trying to catch one of her six inch long babys and didn’t realize she was right on the bank behind it. When the baby let out its little yelp, she came running as any protective mother would, and as she passed by the bow she took a swipe at it and kept right on going.

    She surfaced about twenty feet away and when I turned the kayak and paddled toward her she submerged and swam away.
  6. Most of the 10 footers and under will leave the bank and seek to get away from you, but if a ten footer doesn’t than I continue on by giving as much room as I can.

    I will not go close to any larger ones simply because their size would make it stupid too.
  7. If there is one that is ten feet or larger and it is blocking a narrow passageway and will not move than I will not attempt to pass it.
  8. On “smacking one with a paddle”: By all means I would definately do that if one attacked. I would not only smack it, but I would ram the paddle down it’s throat.

    I definately feel safer paddling in a waterway full of alligators than walking a street in any metropolitan city after darkness.



near what?
good sized man made lake. No canals or egress whatsoever from Everglades or other lakes. Homeowners everywhere so you can bet your bottom dollar that if there was a gator there, ducklings would go first and maybe a dog…but the homeowners are pretty vigilant about this and call in any gator sightings and have the local wildlife people take them out.

Not saying that there possibly could be a gator there but highly highly unlikely. None reported for at least the last 5 years we have been here.

the comment from the woman was due to the hysteria around here because an old half blind gator saw dangling feet on a dock and went for it.

Lions in Africa as they get older and slower will prey on humans if they can as we are slower and dumber.

Just natural selection. We are in their food dish and dangling your feet in the water over a dock at dusk during mating season kinda makes you wonder if we have educated people enough about the very real fact that gators do not follow our rules…

However, the fact remains that we are not on their menu…isolated and rare incidents…


The hysteria will end…
… about the same time evangelical paddlers stop trying to convert everyone else to be paddlers. L Human nature is what it is.

I agree with you of course, but what we think is somewhat irrelevant. It’s her kid.

Most people think just kayaking is crazy or stupid. Add the way the masses are swayed by media hype - and the recent gator news - and you’ve got a real hard sell there. I like your attitude/approach toward getting others on the water, but personally I would not want the responsibility for someone else’s kids on the water, even a pond. Times have changed.

A good article on how to act around

(One thing I would change is the question about kayaking near a 4 foot gator, would do the same as suggested no matter what the size of the gator)

Don’t be a gator baiter

Avoidance is key to remaining safe


Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle

Ambling alligators are making news again. They are showing up in backyards, along highway underpasses and near businesses.


“This is that time of year when all wildlife are doing their spring fling thing and gators, too,” said Monique Slaughter, natural resource specialist at the J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area in Port Arthur. “So they are mating. Next month the females will return to the marsh or look for other sites to build nests.”

The big ones — 6 to 10 feet long — are usually looking for mates. The smaller ones may be looking for new places to live because they’ve been kicked out by the bigger ones. They all bite.

Death by alligator has caused something of a panic in Florida, but Texas gators have been less aggressive toward humans — so far.

Generally alligators will run away from humans. Of course, if the critters are cornered in a human habitat, their escape options will be limited. That’s when you need to call the authorities. Don’t go near them.

“If you see one and it opens its mouth at you, you are too close,” said Tracey Prothro, superintendent of the natural resource program for the city of Baytown. She helps care for four 9-month-old reptiles in Gator World at Baytown’s Wetlands Center.

“They are extremely fast. They are not slow and sluggish like people assume,” Prothro said.

Slaughter said alligators hiss a warning so you can slowly retreat. “They are just as much afraid of you as you are of them,” she said.

“If you’re quick and jerky, they might interpret that as a threat, but in the heat of the moment, it might be hard to control yourself.”

Slaughter reminds that it’s against the law to harass or handle alligators, so don’t throw rocks or try to wrestle one. Plus, even the little ones have a hard bite, she said.

Slaughter’s also not a fan of the zigzig running retreat.

“A lot of people say that. But (the alligators) probably zigzag as well as I can.”

Problems arise when alligators get comfortable around people, usually because someone has fed them, which is against the law, or they find fish scraps in recreational areas.

“Humans aren’t their natural prey. If they start associating you with food, there’s potentially a lot of danger there,” Slaughter said.

If the reptiles approach humans or livestock, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department labels them “nuisance alligators.”

The moochers are different from the spring wanderers. But they all bite and are hauled away.

Slaughter, an alligator expert with about 20 years experience with TPWD, was kind enough to offer some gator-encounter tips.

Q: What would you do if you were walking your dog just before dark and you spotted a 4-foot alligator in a ditch?

A: If my dog’s on a leash, I’d continue on my walk. And just stay a good 15 to 20 feet away.

Q: Would you do something different if it were a 10-footer?

A: Yeah, if it was larger, I might take another path because the pet is bait size.

Q: Let’s say you’re kayaking, and you see a 4-footer slide into the water upstream?

A: Personally, I would just kind of keep an eye on him.

I probably scared him so he’s going into the water, too. I don’t have any reason to fear him.

Q: If you went out into the front yard to get the newspaper and found an alligator, what would you do?

A: I’d call somebody. (To locate your local game warden, call: 281-842-8100.)

Q: What if you are bank fishing and you think you see a gator on the other side basking in the sun?

A: I’d continue fishing. But they may get curious and take your bait. So I’d be prepared to cut my line.

Q: Last advice for dealing with gators?

A: Just be conscious that they’re there, and we share the same planet.

•For more info on alligators, check out:

HoustonChronicle.com | Section: Life

This article is:

2 yesterday
I saw 2 yesterday at an undisclosed location in SC…they went about their business, as did we. No problems. Again, I say be aware of the dangers.

Someone here asked
for REAL information to disseminate. Go to this link for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

and download the Powerpoint pamphlet. Seems a little more honest than the average prettied up government brochure i.e. the pic of the gator chewing on Rosco there. But the info is good and if you go to the FWC mainpage you can actually hunt down the list of those 15 or so deaths between '48 and '04 (yes, I know we now have some new ones to add). Not ONE of those deaths listed or the more recent ones involves a kayaker.

By the way, insulting our friends from out of state and dismissing their understanding of local gator issues is ignorant and rude. The whole point of this kind of forum is to OPEN ourselves to national and international interaction and opinions.

Why don’t you tell us how you really feel…lol.

it will end when the media…
finds a ‘threat’ to over-hype.

Sorry paddlinclay

– Last Updated: May-29-06 6:30 PM EST –

Didn't mean to get riled. I just think we should all be ladies and gentlemen here and I get a little irked when it doesn't pan out. Experience levels here run the gammut but if someone wants to share an experience it should be welcomed and not belittled as "anectdotal." If the story isn't relevant to the reader, they can just move along. Dismissal is unnecessary and discouraging. But you're right 'clay...I got a little excited.Sorry :(

No apology required…
or requested. I could just feel your passion. Have a great day.

BTW, I saw a snake today in the Saluda River…should we drain it?