Many people are under the impression that alligators attack humans all of the time. Although it is true that alligator attacks on humans have occurred from time to time, as a general rule alligators do not typically attack humans unless provoked in some way first. Crocodiles on the other hand are a different story and will attack whatever they see moving with no need to be provoked.
The alligator is a primitive and unpredictable predator and it is for this reason that it is best to avoid them at all costs. There is evidence that alligators are able and willing under some circumstances to utilize human victims for food. The facts surrounding serious reported attacks in places such as Florida have suggested that in every case where it was possible to ascertain, that the victim was unaware of the alligator’s presence until the last minute, or until the creature had actually emerged to attack. In every case, the victim was usually stalked first by the animal, which suggests that the aggression the animal was exhibiting was hunger motivated. Yet, when one considers thousands of contacts between alligators and humans that occur each day without incident, it would appear that such behavior is actually extremely rare.
Individuals should never offer and alligator food. This is the number one mistake many people make that ends up resulting in an attack. Food habit studies have demonstrated that alligators are largely fish eaters but that a significant number of amphibians, birds and small mammals also appear within their diets. There is little evidence to suggest that alligators consume animals as large as humans on a regular basis. However, they are opportunistic and will take whatever they are capable of catching if they are hungry enough and find it in their habitat.
It is not uncommon for an alligator to eat a calf on a ranch or dogs of all sizes. They have been observed to eat swine and large goats as well. Humans obviously fall into a prey-size class that very large alligators are capable of consuming when looking at these sorts of facts. Analysis of information suggests that younger and/or smaller humans may be more likely to be a target.
Female alligators do on occasion defend their nests from intruders and may behave defensively when they feel that they are being threatened in any way or that their young are being disturbed. However a small percentage of females that appear to show a defense that is generally short lived. Females may provide warnings before attacking that go along with an obvious display of defensive behavior. Alligator’s in this case may be found gaping their mouths or hissing.
Aggressive displays by male alligators are generally less common and are also much harder to categorize. Large males have been seen to assume an apparently defensive posture against low-flying helicopters and sometimes will inflate their bodies with their tails arched out of the water in an aggressive display when small boats approach them.
While it generally requires some kind of provocation for an alligator to attack a human, it is better to stay clear of areas where alligators are known to roam. If living in areas where the creatures are known to be, fences should be higher than 5 feet tall to protect children and household pets, and to keep the alligators from entering your yard.
Based on scientist’s experience of capturing animals for research purposes and running managed hunts, it has become apparent that alligators do become very wary and aggressive when they are being harassed in some way. Alligators that do not show fear of humans are the ones you really have to watch out for as they are more likely to attack. One of the main reasons an individual should never feed an alligator is because it will generally make the animal no longer fear humans and they will start to associate humans with food and an attack becomes more likely in this case.
Large alligators that are fed by people on a regular basis around fishing camps, lakes, etc. are far more dangerous as they show little to no fear of humans. In conclusion, alligators are dangerous animals and precautions should be taken in every case. Feeding alligators, making them feel threatened or in danger, etc. are all potential contributing factors of an attack occurring.