But What About Alligators?
This is one of the most common questions we get given we are swimming right alongside these magnificent reptiles. Aren't you worried? What do we do to protect ourselves? Let's dive into this question to get to the root of the question itself.
Why are alligators scary?
Duh! With a bite-force of over 2000 pounds, fast speeds in water, incredible stalking capabilities, and ability to consume and digest just about anything, these nearly impenetrable lizards commonly reach lengths of 16 feet and have those huge teeth they often show off... what's not scary? They have been around for 37 million years, able to survive NOT eating for up to 2 or 3 years! They can be frozen in ice and survive.
What's more... they are scary because we love being scared. It's great for news. It generates views, clicks, and revenue. Even my YouTube channel has only experienced success with the masses when it came to an alligator attack. The comment sections are as expected... wild! Many people wishing our dear friend a quick recovery (which he did), but just as many attacking our entire being... from IQ to being money hungry (show me a wealthy fossil hunter), and of course... "stay out of their home" comments from that whole other crowd. So let's look at the actual data we have on alligators to see if concern is warranted. Disclaimer: You are totally entitled to your own fears! This is to help you make the most rational decision if "diving in" is for you. This is centered around adults, my kids would not leave my side even in the best of seasons. They are more food-sized. As my friend Henry points out, this includes dogs.
Why we are not afraid...
Fear is a choice. I love to be successful. Fear never leads to success. It is better to gather data and make an educated decision. After that, as with all things in life, it's up to chance, there is nothing you can do. So here are some alligator behaviors to consider.
Key aspects to consider!
Alligators feed at dawn and dusk... to reduce the already slim chances of attack, avoid these times in the water.
Alligator mating season is May through June. This time of year alligators get extremely territorial and hyper aggressive even towards each other. Our YouTube video of our friend Jeffrey took place during alligator mating season.
Alligator hatchling season, August through September, is a much lesser aggressive season where the smaller of the alligators (the females) can show aggression to protect their nests.
Alligators prey on struggling animals. Big splashes, top water swimming, those are signs of a struggling wildlife. Don't be struggling wildlife. I don't suggest free-diving for fossils. Not only is it really really hard, but you could appear to be a struggling animal. If you spot a gator while you are in the water, it is best to return to the side while keeping your body on the bottom of the riverbed. Swimming along the top could actually attract it.
Do not go backwards. It isn't too well known, but alligators cannot control their bite. It is a reflex once something enters their mouth. Many bites happen from either stepping into an alligators mouth, or floating back with the current into an alligators mouth. It is best to move against the current for that reason as well as visibility.
Data to ease your soul...
Here is the actual data around alligator attacks... they aren't as common as you think and very very rarely lead to death.
In a 68 year span, 23 deaths were recorded due to an alligator attack. In just 10 years, 51 deaths were recorded due to lightning strikes in the state of Florida alone. In just 1 year, 2,949 people died in car crashes in the state of Florida. Yes, more people are driving on the roads in Florida, but you would be 7,379 times more likely to die in a car accident. I see a lot of people swimming, diving, kayaking, and wading in the rivers of Florida every time I go out. Now if you avoid mating season listed above, your chances of death from alligator attack are so low, you are more likey to win the lottery.
Things more dangerous than Alligators
People: over 14,000 people die per year from homicide in the US... one of the most common perpetrators of a homicide is one's spouse, so you're sleeping next to something way deadlier than an alligator.
Lawn Mowers: 90 people die per year from lawn mower accidents... but the city still sites me if I don't cut my grass
Deer: 200 people die per year from deer. I'm sure this statistic is related to car crashes.
Falling: 36,338 people per year die from... falling.
Mosquitoes kill 1 million world-wide and other common animals like Dogs kill far more humans than Alligators, Sharks or Bears combined of which average less than 1 death per year nationwide.