Alligators are Fun!
Friends of ours sent us a video of an alligator “attacking” a kayaker. It’s a pretty impressive video. But, after we watched the video several times, we began to notice some things this kayaker could have done differently to avoid this situation.
While we acknowledge the fact that alligators do attack people around water in southwest Florida, there are some basic things folks can be aware of that will reduce these incidents. Sometimes, it seems people have an obsession about the dangers alligators pose. As for us, we have kayaked and fished around alligators for years without a single issue. That being said, we are careful to avoid confrontations with alligators in our kayaks.
Here are a few things we want to share so kayakers can enjoy seeing these reclusive creatures in their natural habitat:
• Don’t kayak in water that is too shallow for the gator to submerge. We often see alligators coming towards us from the shore but know it’s just trying to get to deep water under our kayaks and hug the bottom until we’re gone. In shallow water a gator can’t submerge, and they feel threatened by that.
• Avoid kayaking in swamps with lots of timber obstructions that don’t give you any room to avoid a gator. The dense tangle of vegetation blocks your view and avoidance ability in shallow water. Considering the spiders, snakes, and other critters there, you probably don’t need to kayak in a shallow swamp.
• It’s important to avoid crowding any gator that makes it feel cornered. This is a dangerous situation with any critter. Always give an alligator access to deep water when they are disturbed. As we mentioned above, their primary goal is to get to deep water and hide. It may look like they are charging but that’s not the case.
• We saw a video recently of an alligator “attack,” but it did not bite the kayak. Instead, it charged with teeth showing then closed its mouth and dove under the kayak. In this video, the gator found the water was too shallow, so the kayaker got dumped. There just wasn’t enough depth for the gator as it tried to squeeze under the kayak, so it had to push even harder as it tried to get out from under the boat. Quite a traumatic experience for this kayaker.
• During alligator mating season the males get aggressive and the females start protecting their nests (either is bad). We’ve encountered big male alligators battling over territory and females while kayaking. Our reaction was to give them plenty of space to settle their differences. On one occasion, in a smaller creek, we decided to turn around rather than paddle through the war zone.
So, while alligators do pose a hazard to kayakers and others fishing around the shoreline, they’re not cold-blooded killers. Give them space, don’t corner them, don’t feed them and don’t swim or wade in waters that are their home. If you do fall out of a kayak in alligator habitat, don’t splash around like a struggling deer or hog; that’s what they’re really looking for. Quietly get back aboard your kayak or to shore. Alligators have never successfully consumed a big, colorful, plastic floating thing in their lives, so they probably won’t try to eat your kayak. So today, just paddle quietly by and appreciate these unique creatures knowing they usually won’t let you get close enough for a good picture before they try to get away by silently sliding into the deeper water under your kayak.
Kimball and Les Beery, authors of Angler’s Guide to Shore and KAYAK Fishing Southwest Florida, contribute these excerpts from both Waterproof books to promote the excellent fishing available in the Englewood area. They are available locally at Old Florida Gallery on West Dearborn, and for download at ww.anglerpocketguides.com and www.amazon.com.