Alligators are powerful, fearsome creatures–so what should you do if you suddenly find them sharing the waters at your favorite swimming hole? In this article, we’ll talk about how to survive an alligator attack in the water, as well as ways to avoid being attacked in the first place.
What You'll Learn Today
- How to Spot an Alligator in the Water?
- How Fast Can an Alligator Swim?
- What Noise Does an Alligator Make When Attacking?
- What Should You Do If Attacked By an Alligator?
- How Do You Protect Yourself From an Alligator Attack?
- What Are Alligators Afraid Of?
How to Spot an Alligator in the Water?
As you might imagine, the best way to survive an alligator attack is to simply avoid being attacked. If you are able to spot the alligator before getting into the water, this may save you from having to fend off an attack later.
Always do a thorough check of any body of water you plan to swim in if alligators live in your area. Alligators typically hang out just at or below the water’s surface–you may only see their backs or their eyes and snouts sticking out above the surface.
Alligators in the water may be moving or floating stationary. Check for ripples in the water, especially if they seem to be moving in a linear direction, as this can indicate an alligator’s presence.
Again, keep a close lookout for eyes or backs to be just above or near the water’s surface.
Alligators are most likely to hang out in specific areas in any body of water. Take special care to look for alligators:
- Near the shoreline: If you see alligators resting on the shore, don’t enter the water. You may have to look closely, as they may be partially submerged in the water and sitting very still.
- In shallow areas: Alligators tend to prefer hanging out in shallow water. Of course, you should look for them in deeper water as well, but make sure to double check any shallow spots before going into the water.
- In weedy areas: If there are a lot of water plants growing in a pond or swamp, these areas can provide perfect cover for alligators to hide in. Thoroughly inspect all weedy or swampy areas before entering the water.
How Fast Can an Alligator Swim?
Alligators can swim up to 3 miles per hour over short distances. By comparison, world-class professional swimmers can sometimes reach speeds of 5 to 6 miles per hour, though most humans are, of course, much slower than that.
Alligators get tired quickly as they have slow metabolisms, so they won’t maintain their top speed for very long. Still, 3 miles per hour is relatively fast and, if you don’t see them coming, sometimes a short distance is all they need to make the attack.
It is very difficult if not impossible to outswim an alligator attack, as you can see in the video below, so again, your best bet is to avoid getting too close in the first place.
What Noise Does an Alligator Make When Attacking?
Generally speaking, alligators attack without making much noise. They prefer to stalk their prey and stealthily sneak up on it, and they can swim rather quietly.
Of course, once the alligator has attacked, there will be a lot of splashing and slapping the water, and the alligator may hiss or growl in the struggle. But by this time, it is too late to avoid the attack, as the attack will already be in progress.
Alligators may make hissing or growling noises before deciding to attack, as these are their main forms of communication. Listen closely for these and various other alligator sounds, as heard in this video.
Again, it’s best to listen for these sounds before going in the water. If you hear them while in the water, get out immediately.
You won’t hear attacking alligators making these noises since they will be attempting to sneak up and surprise their prey (you). So if you hear them, consider the noises to be your warning to get to safety out of the water before an attack comes.
What Should You Do If Attacked By an Alligator?
Even if you take all of the appropriate precautions, there is still a chance that you may be surprised by an alligator you didn’t see before getting in the water. What should you do if the alligator decides to attack?
According to the University of Florida, here are some tips for surviving an alligator attack:
- Do not zig-zag: If an alligator approaches you, swim in a straight line away from it, and try not to thrash around too much. Thrashing and zig-zagging will further draw attention to you and may provoke a more sudden attack from the alligator.
- Fight back: If you cannot get away from the alligator in time, turn around and fight back, fighting hard with the understanding that your life may depend on it. Try to make yourself big and threatening, yell at the alligator, and start hitting it.
- Punch, kick, and poke eyes: Target the alligator’s head and eyes. Poke at the eyes, and attempt to kick or punch it all around the head and face.
- Stuff objects in the alligator’s mouth: If you have a lifejacket or other flotation device, try and jam it into the alligator’s mouth to keep it from biting you and to trigger its gag reflex.
- Get away from it: As soon as you have an opportunity to swim away from the alligator, don’t hesitate. Turn and swim toward the shore, remembering to swim in a linear direction.
How Do You Protect Yourself From an Alligator Attack?
Watch for alligators
It cannot be said enough–if you can avoid getting close to alligators in the first place, then do so. Never enter a body of water without looking for alligators, and keep your eyes open while you’re in the water as well.
Listen for alligators
If you don’t see any alligators but can hear them hissing or growling, stay out of the water and move to a safer location.
Don’t swim in areas you know have alligators
If you know that alligators live in a specific area, don’t go swimming there. Pay attention to local reports of alligator sightings in specific bodies of water, even if you’ve never seen alligators in those areas before.
Hold very still
If you are in the water and you see an alligator passing by, stay as still as possible until it has moved on, then get out of the water immediately. If you can avoid drawing attention to yourself, chances are the gator will leave you alone.
If you notice alligators in the water with you, do not panic. You must be able to think clearly to stay still and be ready to fight back if necessary.
What Are Alligators Afraid Of?
Alligators have a natural fear of humans, so they generally won’t attack unless they feel threatened or are starving. They may also attack to protect their young and possibly even their territory.
Alligators will rarely, if ever, attack merely out of curiosity or aggression. In cases of food shortage, they may attack with intent to kill and eat, so be especially careful during times of drought, as well as early in the spring as they emerge from their brumation (hibernation) period.
To survive an alligator attack in the water, it’s best to avoid being attacked in the first place. Don’t enter the water if you see or hear any signs of alligators in the area.
If you are attacked, fight back. Punch, kick, and poke the alligator’s head and eyes, attempt to stuff objects in its mouth, and head for the shore as soon as you have a good opening to do so.