My first experience with an alligator was nothing but terrifying. I remember seeing the menacing eyes of this beast staring right into mine, with its mouth partially open as if it was about to strike any second. Despite this being in a zoo, I couldn’t imagine what I would do if I were to face one outside such a controlled environment.
Well, getting rid of alligators is a bit of a complex task. The wisest thing to do in case of an alligator invasion is to call a professional, immediately. As far as repellents go, there are no toxicants or repellents that have been officially registered as suitable for removing alligators from your property. Alternatively, you can use traps but these are best suited for professionals too.
But, in as much as the professional may be on his/her way, it is imperative that you have an apt understanding of what alligators are, how they behave, and how to react in case you see one.
Why Alligators Pose a Serious Threat
Alligators are not known to attack humans frequently. However, if threatened or presented with the opportunity, they can head in for the kill. As a matter of fact, there have been several reports of alligators attacking humans either near ponds or rivers or in their nests.
Most harm inflicted by an alligator arises from its teeth. The alligator has 75 razor-sharp teeth that it uses to inflict injury on its victim. Once its jaws lock on the prey, the alligator twists its torso in an attempt to break the meat off the main body.
In case you get involved in an alligator attack, you risk getting injuries such as punctures, contusions, lacerations, fractures, abrasions and in the worst case, amputations. In many cases, the injuries may be multiple.
How to Get Rid of Alligators in a Pond
Having an alligator in your pond is a matter that should be treated with extreme caution. Such alligators, if left for long, can grow to be very large and very dangerous. And altogether, these gators will pack a serious bite in case they feel threated.
The first, most important thing to do is to clear the pond of small children and pets, as they can be easy prey for the alligator. Once this is done, call a professional for removal. It is strongly advised that you desist from getting rid of the alligator on your own.
Keep them away from the pond
Once the alligator menace has been dealt with, the best thing to do is to figure out how to keep them away from the pond altogether.
In most cases, if you have a small pond, erecting a 4-foot tall fence would keep even the large alligators away. And most importantly, you should remove any food source around the pond or yard that would serve as an attraction to these alligators.
How to Keep Alligators Away From House?
Keeping alligators away from your house can go a long way in helping you avoid an unwarranted encounter with them, altogether. And this can be done in three ways:
This is the most basic way you can keep alligators off your property. Erecting a fence around your house, about 4 feet tall, will keep even the larger alligators at bay.
If you are not a fan of fencing on land, erecting an underwater fence a few feet from the shore of the inhabiting water body would serve well. Just make sure the fence reaches the water level height or extends a bit beyond it.
2. Trapping and removal
In case you have an alligator living in your pond or lake, or one near you, then trapping and removing the beast from that water body would be the most rational decision to keep it out of your house.
To do this, you need to contact your local state’s wildlife agency and if they deem the animal as a threat, they’ll send over a professional alligator trapper to get rid of the animal.
3. Stay away
This is the most rational decision you can make to keep alligators away from your home, completely. Simply put, you should stay away from water edges. This is part of their habitat.
This is very critical, especially over Spring when alligators usually mate and are the most aggressive.
How Do I Trap One?
Trapping an alligator is not work that you should do on your own. This should be left to the professionals. As a matter of fact, several states have enacted laws that dictate how alligator trapping should be done.
And in most states, a license or permit is required before you can go ahead and trap alligators.
Whichever the case, trapping an alligator usually involves the use of two traps: the hook trap and the self-locking snare.
The hook trap
Otherwise known as “baiting a hook”, the hook trap basically uses a fishing hook, baited with meat such as chicken, nutria, fish or beef lungs, to lure the alligator.
The trap is setup and left to hang on a tree branch, hanging over the pond or water body the alligator is inhabiting. In most cases, the hook would be 2 feet above the water.
Once the alligator goes for the kill, the hook clings to its stomach and the trapper now pulls the alligator on shore using the rope attached to the hook.
Now, this method of trapping is not recommended in most states, reason being, the hook trap can deliver serious injuries to the alligator’s stomach and brain, possibly killing it. Thus, one should look up the local Department of Wildlife to get a list of approved traps in the state.
The self-locking snare
This is considered to be the most humane way of trapping an alligator, yet a bit riskier.
The self-locking snare automatically traps the alligator inside a cage once it drives itself into the trap while trying to get the bait.
Normally, you would place this trap near the area where the alligator visits the most and around evenings when they are most active.
The danger with this kind of trap is that the alligator may not be successfully trapped when the snare locks. Thus, you might head in to grab it once it gets into the snare only to realize it didn’t lock as expected. Thus, this work should only be left to the professionals.
Wire cage traps
These can be made at home and have to be sunk a few feet into the water where the alligator lives. Once the animal gets in, the door shuts and traps it inside the cage. This method delivers no harm to the alligator and thus is classified under the no-kill traps.
Since alligators can grow up to 12 feet long and weigh up to 1000lbs, this cage has to be constructed to measure about seven feet long, two feet wide and two feet tall.
Herring would work well as bait, and so would whole chicken.
Technically, this method is meant to kill the alligator rather than trap it. It should be, in most cases, the last resort for handling a stray alligator.
Can You Hunt Alligators in Florida?
Yes. As a matter of fact, alligator hunting in Florida is so big, that permits are usually sold out over the hunting period, which runs from Aug. 15 to the morning of November 1st. Mark you, the permits issued are usually in the tune of 5,000.
Hunting permits in Florida are usually issued to 18-year-olds and above, with a local coughing $272 a permit, and non-locals $1,022, as per 2017 rates.
Over the hunting period, folks are allowed to hunt down these gators between 5pm and 10am. Any other period beyond thatis strict non-hunting periods. You should have your hunting weapon disarmed and possibly far away from you during these non-hunting hours.
And speaking of weapons, the only weaponry legally allowed for alligator hunting are bows and crossbows, spears, harpoons, gigs, and spearguns. The only firearm permitted is the bang stick, and this should be used only if the alligator has been attached to a restraining line.
As far as the hunting grounds are concerned, Florida allows you to hunt on public waters, and private waters only under the legal permission from the landowner.
And in case you want to tag along with someone, a trapping agent license would set you back $52. This license is issued to 16-year-olds and above.
So, doesn’t this widespread hunting negatively affect the alligator population?
Well, no. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, FWC, the gator population in Florida is about 1.3 million. This event helps manage that population, with each permit only allowing for a maximum of 2 hunts.
Is It Legal to Kill Alligators?
The hunting and killing of alligators is a controlled activity in most states. This is because the American alligator was considered to be an endangered species, under the Endangered Species Act, which was passed by both houses and signed by President Nixon in 1973.
This was at a time when the alligator population was rapidly dwindling and the country had to enlist the animal as endangered, threatened to extinction.
However, in some states such as Florida where the gator population has significantly increased, there are regulated hunting seasons in which the hunting and killing of alligators is legalized. Any activity done beyond this period and without a permit is considered illegal.
However, each state enacts its own laws to regulate this activity, despite all not allowing for the indiscriminate killing of this reptile. In some states, an alligator may be killed only if it is proven that it causes risk to public safety.
Can You Hold an Alligator’s Mouth Shut?
Yes. Matter of fact, this can be easily done with one hand for smaller alligators.
The reason behind this is that alligators have very strong lower jaw muscles that make it an easy and extremely powerful process to shut their mouth. This is the reason why alligators usually have a tight grip over their prey.
However, they have weaker muscles that open their mouths thus it’s easy for a human, with one hand, to just keep the mouth shut.
Do Alligators Have Weak Jaws?
Yes, and no.
Well, this largely depends on the direction of movement of the jaws.
Basically, alligators have greater jaw muscle when they are chomping down or getting their mouth shut. This is a natural characteristic that makes them effective hunters, as this strength helps them get a tight grip on the prey.
On the flip side, the muscles that open their jaws are weak. Thus, in the scenario where they are opening their mouths, the alligator jaws don’t pack as much punch.
What are Alligators’ Weaknesses?
Alligators have a few weak spots that can come in quite handy in case of an attack:
1. The eyes
Poking the alligator’s eyes in case it tries to attack you can help wade off the attack. The goal is to discourage the animal from maintaining a grip on you and attempting to twist and turn and break pieces of meat off you.
2. The head
In case you are the victim or witness to an alligator attack, hitting the animal’s head with a stick, oar or pole might help wade off the attack. The alligator will lose grip of the person or prey after several hits and give up the attack.
3. The palatal valve
To prevent them from drowning, alligators have a valve that keeps their throats shut while submerged underwater. Just in case one drags you down into the water, grabbing this valve and yanking it open will most likely disorient the animal and force it to let go of you.
This is because, yanking this valve open will start drowning the alligator itself, forcing it to let go of you. This valve is located right behind the tongue, thus a bit of digging in might be needed.
4. The snout
The alligator’s snout is another sensitive region and thankfully, one that you won’t have to dig in to find like the palatal valve.
More specifically, the tip of their snout is the most sensitive. Thus, in case you find yourself under attack from one, a pop on the snout may help discourage the gator from the attack.
How Do You Scare off an Alligator?
In case you find yourself in a sticky situation with a feisty alligator, the best option to take, if available, is to run away. Otherwise, the next best option to take is to fight off the alligator, as they will usually put up an aggressive fight.
Poke the alligator’s eyes
One of the things you can do is gorge the alligator’s eyes with a stick or pole. Do not attempt to jump on the alligator’s back as they tend to have very powerful muscles in the torso. As a matter of fact, it’s these muscles that they use to roll and break chunks of meat away from their prey’s body.
Hit the head or snout
Alternatively, hitting the alligator severally on the head and snout can scare the reptile off. These are sensitive regions thus a few strong hits would help wade the gator away.
Make a lot of noise, as long as you’re not in the water
One trick that might work as well, in case the attack hasn’t commenced yet, is to make a lot of noise. Do this while not in water, since water is the most natural hunting grounds for the alligator, and thus you may end up attracting them altogether.
If you’re on land, making these noises will definitely increase your chances of avoiding an attack from the alligator.
Discharge a firearm
In case you are a licensed gun holder, discharging your firearm in most cases would scare the alligator away.
However, you might be forced to take an aim at the alligator in order to injure it, maim it or kill it in the worst-case scenario.
How Do You Stop an Alligator from Biting You?
Humans are not the most desirable prey for alligators. However, this doesn’t mean that they do not pose a risk to our safety.
Thus, is important that you steer clear from the path of this reptile in the following ways:
1. Know where alligators live and steer clear of the area
Avoiding alligators altogether is the sure way of not getting bitten by one of them. Make sure you avoid alligator-infested areas which tend to be areas near ponds, lakes, and mushy areas.
In most cases, you will find warning signs indicating that you’re entering an alligator-infested region. So, stay on the lookout for them.
2. Don’t approach an alligator’s nest
Alligators are very feisty over the mating period, with male alligators being known to patrol their territory in search of potential danger. And it is in this period too that they are found on land most.
The female alligator is also known to be extremely ferocious at this period, as she defends her nest.
3. Use extreme caution when moving over waters inhabited by alligators
According to statistics, over 90% of alligator attacks happen in water. Thus, extreme caution is required when moving over waters which you suspect might have an alligator or alligators in it.
More importantly, you should avoid swimming in such waters as you’ll be placing yourself in direct contact with the unlikely predator.
4. Do not feed alligators directly
Feeding alligators directly risks putting you in the direct line of attack of these predators. More importantly, doing this makes them associate humans with food, which is not what you exactly want.
Take caution even when dumping food refuse in alligators’ habitat, as this might still teach them to associate humans with the provision of food.
5. Take caution while camping
In case you go camping in an alligator inhabitation, make sure that you set camp an ample distance away from water.
Preferably, you should be 164 feet away from the shoreline of the water body, considering the tides, and if possible, elevated 6 feet directly from the surface of the water, in case you pitch a tent on a cliff.
Where Do Alligators Go at Night?
Most of the time, alligators will spend time in the edges of the water, where they would hide, waiting for prey. This would be in the reeds or occasionally, they would head for deeper waters.
You can spot an alligator at night thanks to their characteristic red glowing eyes.
Can Alligators Climb Stairs?
Shockingly, yes. Alligators have of late demonstrated to be good climbers, with a story about a family that woke up to find a 9-foot long alligator on their porch.
According to reports from the family, the alligator appeared to have maneuvered through a flight of 15 stairs before ending up in the porch. According to authorities that came to get the reptile off the property, he might have gotten lost while following a mating migratory route.
Apparently, a chain-link fence too
In other strange sightings, a gator was also spotted climbing a chain-link fence. There are reports that the Florida alligators might be getting “smarter” and figuring out how to maneuver blocked territories.
This is surprising, considering an adult alligator can weigh as much as 1000lbs.
Mike Zhang. Founder of FamilyLifeShare