First Gator-Kayak Encounter

-- Last Updated: Sep-08-06 11:51 AM EST --

Well, after paddling coastal rivers and bayous for over a year now, I have finally encountered my first alligator. In the back of your mind you know they are out there somewhere but it doesn't sink in until you actually see one. We were probably about 60 feet apart when we saw each was swimming up-river as I was going down-river. It sort of drifted off towards the opposite bank from me and I quit paddling and coasted along for 20 seconds or so. When I got within about 30 feet it silently sank out of sight without so much as a ripple. From what I could see of it's nose, eyes and back, I would estimate it to have been maybe 5 or 6 feet long....not a monster but certainly not what you would like to take a swim with! I started paddling again and went on with my outing. Did I approach this situation the right way? Is it best to just give them a wide berth and not draw any undue attention to your self?

You don’t need to give a six footer …
a wide berth. They will always want to get away from you.

It sounds like you did good.

You can tell their length by estimating the length in inches from their nostrils to their eyes and then converting that to feet.

Any thing eight feet and above I give the right of way to.

Any of them that are ten feet and above I will go to the opposite side of the river, and if there is a ten footer or larger that is blocking the way and doesn’t move, I will head the opposite direction, unless it is the way I absolutely have to go .

In paddling with and around gators for the past thirty years, I have never had a bad encounter with one, but can relate some interesting stories about various incidents.




how does paddling with a
gators affect classification difficutly of rivers. Is a lazy river full of gators make it a class V?

WOW Jack…
That one is certainly a good deal larger than the one I saw this morning! I went on through your album and saw another photo where there was a good size one just off the bow of a yellow kayak. What was the situation there?

Hy JackL, Great picks. I noticed the QCC. I expect to get mine in about three weeks. I have been going to Jhonathan Dickenson for too many years to count. I’d love to know your QCC impressions. Thanks

During the mating season…yes.

A few more…

– Last Updated: Sep-08-06 4:59 PM EST –

from the Turner River in Florida...

Some things to know
about gators; when a large gator enters the water from a bank ahead of you, it will usually go straight toward the center of the stream as though it is going to intercept you, but actually, it is just seeking deeper water and will submerge before you get there.

Paddling in Florida, it is not a good idea to drift quietly at the edge of grassy aeas, or you might surprise a gator, and it will roll and sling mud all over you.

If a gator follows your kayak, it is probably a female whose nest you got too near. Just keep going and she will go back.

And if you hear baby gators cackling, don’t get too close. When they’re that small, Mom will be close by.

Unless you want to grab one of her kids
then she will probably take a swipe at your bow which won’t do any harm if you are in a tupperware yak.



We usually paddle JD on our way…
down to the Keys each Jan.

We try to stop there for a few days.

I’ll send you a private E-mail on my QCC thoughts.

Too many folks here will jump all over me if I post them here.



Two years ago.
We had the Jensen canoe in the Turner, and on the way back ran out of water in that longest mangrove tunnel, so I was out front in knee deep mud pulling the canoe with “the bride” safely sitting on one of the seats.

I rounded a bend and came face to face with a ten footer (maybe eight), and I was so PO’d that I just yelled get the f… out of the way, and low and behold it ran off to the side, and watched me as I slogged by it.

True story – honest !



You know this…

You know this from experience? I was wondering where that gatorskin watchband came from…

Never get too close to a gator

– Last Updated: Sep-08-06 10:21 PM EST –

no matter what size, unless you have absolutely no alternative. As a child my cousin, friends and I would fish and swim around some rather large gators in Cypress Creek some distance up from the Hillsborough River and what kept us from getting ate by one I have no idea, maybe God's way of protecting babes and occasionally, fools. Now that I'm much older I have a much better understanding of the animal I try to keep my distance when possible. Respect them? That I do. You have to admire an animal that's been around as long, maybe longer, than when the dinosaurs walked this planet. I've had encounters too numerous to count and none but 2 were serious. And I've been close. I've had to let a slow current take me within a foot of about 24 hatchlings on the outside bend of a creek while their 9' mama was watching me high on the inside bank and I had no choice but to steer with the slightest and slowest of movement as the current put my canoe in a position of blocking her vision while being that close to her babies. Yeah, if I didn't mind the consequences I could've reached out and grabbed a baby but one chirp from it and mama would've launched off that bank, with possibly dire results. I believe in the live-and-let-live philosophy... and I didn't want her rockin' my boat. The serious contacts I'll save for another post.

I take it rolling is out of the question
This is probably an obvious no, but would any reasonable person roll on purpose in this kind of water?

Paul S.

Gators love to roll…

– Last Updated: Sep-09-06 12:04 AM EST –

...once they get hold of you!

After that, if you're conscious and breathing, it's probably good to be able to do one arm rolls! *L*

More than likely rolling would spook them - but since it does mimic a feeding behavior so it could make them curious too...

Guess the gator fearmeisters will now
have their field day with scarey gator storys.

my additional coinage to the discussion
I grew in Avon Park,Fl and we kids had gaitors growing up…you could buy them cheaply most anywhere, they rarely lived more than 6-8months…we fed them by using the eraser end of a pencil pushing raw hamburger meat down their throat.

one did live quite a while and reach over a foot in length…one day i watched this 14inch gaitor humber a friend of my dads by biting his thumb, the grown man went to his knees when the teeth set in.

We were always taught that unless it was the rut that a gaitor wont attach anything larger than it is unless it abs. has no escape route.

You’ve done well…
I’ve been paddling around them for the last twelve years, and that seems to work for me. Just give them room and time, and respect.

Also the post about being too quiet, and near the bank? Oh yeah, been there. And will be there again.

I figure that the gators and I have an agreement. If I scare them, they have the right to scare me. Works every time.


Gators are unpredictable
I’ve spent a lot of time canoeing in gator infested waters in the Okefenokee and other southern waters and have learned you can’t always predict gator behavior. Most, large or small, will want to yield the right of way to you, but not always. I’ve seen monster gators run from me when I came near, but have had a few that nosed their way right up to the boat. Some gators are trained to associate people with food by picnickers that feed them or careless fishermen that trail stringers of caught fish. Beware. A side note on gator behavior. Many years ago I was fishing with a buddy that accidentally caught a small 18" gator on a floating plastic frog. The roof of his mouth was so tough the hook didn’t stick but he held on all the way to the boat. Robert threw the gator back, and then experiemented by throwing the frog in front of the gator again. The gator bit it a second time and held on all the way to the boat. This experiement was carried out 5 times and the little gator’s aggressive behavior never changed. The gator never learned, but that lesson stuck with me. If an object small enough for a gator to get his mouth around moves in the water, instinct may force him to try it.

It’s not an issue of go in the water, and you get eaten.

Many of us snorkle, dive, kayak, swim, and more in the waters of Florida. Very few of us get hurt by the reptiles, sharks, etc.

You can act just as if they weren’t there, and enjoy the beauty of it all. Just keep your eyes open, and give all the critters that dwell here some room.

Yup, some poor SOB is gonna be unlucky once in a while, but so far, it hasn’t been anyone I know.

I believe our lightning strikes are much more fatal than the wildlife.