Thursday, September 29, 2011

Babies vs Alligators

I am often asked if I worry about alligators. As a hiker and an Everglades tour guide I see them often. In fact we guarantee guests that they will see them on our tour. I never take for granted that we have massive reptilians that can grow more than fourteen feet in length. I understand them and I respect them. I do not worry about them.

Recently my wife and I took our baby for a stroll on a trail next to a marsh near our home. As she pushed the stroller through a muddy portion of the trail I noticed the stroller tracks bisecting an animal’s tracks. There was no mistaking it. A large all­igator had recently crawled from the river, climbed the muddy berm and descended into the pond on the other side. The large webbed feet made deep impressions in the mud and the sinuous trail of its heavy tail drew a perfect impression of an animal walking with a side to side gait.

The alligator was nowhere in sight, nor was it lurking in wait to snatch our baby. It was a hot day and no doubt it simply wanted to get from one body of water to another. Fish, birds, turtles and other prey that are easily chomped and swallowed are typically on the menu. American Alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) often take to the water at the sight of a person and while attacks do happen, there have been only 568 reported in Florida since 1948. Males were involved in 86% of attacks and unsurprisingly, many of those were provoked.

Feeding an alligator often results in an alligator losing its natural fear of people and they are more likely to approach. Swimming in rivers, canals and ponds, especially at night can mimic the sound of injured prey which draws the attention of an alligator. Water hazards on golf courses can be literal hazards as well.  

Having said all of that, the number of fatalities caused by alligators since 1948 is twenty three. The number of babies in strollers chased by alligators? Zero. Am I careful? Yes. Am I worried? There are more important things to worry about.


  1. Interesting. Of course, if you could reverse it and come up with a number for gators that were killed because they were deemed to be nuisant, that would be a startling number!