Alligators have been around for millions of years. They’re fascinating animals with amazing hunting skills. As long as they’re in the wild, it’s OK to admire them and watch them hunt. But once they cross the line and wander into your pond or property, they become a danger that needs to be dealt with.
There are many ways you can trap an alligator. You can snare them, use wire cage traps, or just go with the baited fish hook method. Fish, chicken, and beef lungs are effective baits used to lure the intruding alligators. Shooting is also another common way to get rid of alligators in a fast and humane way.
There are many reasons why alligators leave the swamps or waterways where they normally live and come to your property. But food is the main reason. So what can you do when an alligator is already squatting in your yard or swimming in your pond? Here we’ll cover all the relevant points about alligators and how to trap them and remove them from your property.
Alligator Trapping – How to Trap
Unlike other wild animals, alligators can be a real threat to the community. Especially adult alligators whose menacing demeanor will scare off the hardiest wildlife control operator. American alligators can be intimidating and once they find their way to a property or a waterway where there’s food they tend to hang around and frighten unsuspecting passersby.
When deciding on the best way to get rid of the invading alligator, you need to take into account your own safety first. Getting close to a trapped alligator can be a costly move. You also need to take into consideration the suffering of the alligator. Some traps will cause unnecessary pain to the trapped animal.
Before we cover the best ways to get rid of alligators, it’s worth pointing out that trapping these reptiles is a serious business. You should really know what you’re getting yourself into before you decide on taking this perilous task. If you’re confident of your abilities to handle an alligator, then let’s get to it.
Best Types of Alligator Traps
There are two types of traps to hunt an alligator. Those traps that capture the animal without putting its life in danger and the others that kill the reptile for sure. Alligators are not a protected species so killing them will not put you on the crosshairs of the law. However, if your goal is to exterminate the reptile without prejudice then you should go for a quick way that doesn’t cause pain.
It’s really up to you which type of trap to choose. The traps that keep the reptile alive are humane but they force you to deal with a trapped dangerous animal as you think of how to release it into the wild. The traps that kill leave you with just the problem of getting rid of the carcass.
The Snare Trap
This type of trap captures the alligator and keeps it trapped until you or someone else comes and releases it. It doesn’t hurt the alligator in any way which is probably why many people prefer it to remove the reptiles from their neighborhoods.
The trap works using a bait. You can either use a chicken or a big chunk of meat, preferably one that’s started to turn. The stench of rotting meat attracts alligators more than fresh meat that has no smell. Once the animal finds the chicken it will try to get it by sliding its head between the boards of the trap.
This trips the wire and the snare clamps shut on the head of the alligator. The trap usually has a wire mechanism that loops around the animal and keeps it pinned down to the ground. Setting the trap is easy and won’t put your life in danger.
Wire Cage Traps
Another type of traps that don’t harm the animal is wire cage traps. You can buy one online or make the cage yourself if you have the skills. The cage should be big enough to accommodate the intruding alligator.
If you have a recurring alligator problem then you should go for a large cage that caters for all sizes. The cage should be seven feet long to fit an adult alligator in it. The width should be around two feet with a similar height. If the cage is too tight or snug the animal won’t get in with its own free will.
Place the trap where the offending alligator comes to feed. Make sure to cover it with leaves and branches as camouflage. For bait, you can use a chicken at the far end of the cage. As soon as the alligator walks in the trap door slams shut and keeps it locked in there.
As one of the killing traps, this one is dangerous for you as a hunter, and it also causes unnecessary suffering to the alligator. It is not the recommended way to trap an alligator, but sometimes it can be the only way available to you.
You’ll need a large hook and a sturdy rope. Attach a whole chicken to the hook and hang it from a tree so that it hangs about two feet above the surface of the water. If you’re dealing with an adult alligator then your rope should be braided to handle the force of the animal pulling as it tries to set itself free.
Since alligators don’t chew their food, the animal will swallow the chicken whole. This causes the hook to latch to its stomach which might kill it. If you find the alligator still alive when you come to check on your trap, then shoot it in the head to put it out of its misery.
As far as killing alligators traps are concerned, shooting the animal is the quickest way to get rid of the problem. It doesn’t cause pain if done right, and you’re not left with a live animal to deal with. That said, using a weapon to hunt an alligator means you have to come near the reptile to hunt it.
Small caliber guns are not effective against adult American alligators. Your weapon of choice should be at least a .243 caliber bullet for a quick and painless kill. You really don’t want to face a wounded alligator or let it swim away only to die a few days later.
Get as close as it’s safe for you to the alligator and aim for the head. Once dead the animal will sink to the bottom almost immediately. So avoid shooting alligators in big rivers or murky water where it’s hard to pull out the carcass.
Hand Cast Hooks
This method is similar to the fish hook trap except that instead of fixing the line to a tree or a pole you drag it behind you in a boat. It’s only suitable for waterways that you can navigate in a boat. Rivers, marshes, lakes, and even swamps are good settings for this type of trap.
Bait the hook with a chicken the same way you did in the fish hook trap and tie the line to the end of your boat. Keep the hook dangled above the water as you amble in your boat at a slow pace. Alligators are not as fast as a boat and they don’t like to chase their prey.
When the alligator gobbles down the chicken with the hook in it, reel it into the boat and use a gun to kill it immediately. This method is neither quick nor safe and should only be handled by animal control experts.
Finding the Alligator and Setting the Trap
Where you set your trap relies on where the alligator likes to lurk. If it’s attracted by chicken on your property then that’s where you place your trap. In most cases, though, alligators prefer the water. They hang by the pond or lake or creek where there’s plenty of food.
Most traps we discussed here can be placed in the shallow areas of the water source half submerged. This makes it more convenient for the trapper to locate and deal with the trapped alligator. That’s also the preferred spot for the animals to hide and wait for prey.
When using wire cage traps on land, make sure you have them covered with branches and leaves. The reptiles are smart enough not to squeeze themselves into a narrow place where they might not be able to go out. We’ll cover the best bait to use in the next section.
What Do You Use for Alligator Bait?
As devout carnivores, alligators eat meat of all kinds. Chickens are a favorite of course. You can use a whole chicken that’s been out of the fridge for some time. A frozen chicken won’t tickle their nostrils the right way for lack of aroma.
Beef lungs are another popular bait. If you can get your hands on a few of those at the local butcher’s, your trap is guaranteed to capture the intruding alligator in no time. Beef lungs spoil easily and the stench that they produce is a good calling card for alligators.
The third type of bait that you can use is fish. Fish are conveniently abundant and have a natural smell that alligators instinctively get drawn to. Hook a few large fish in your trap since one might not be enough to lure the alligator.
How to Deal with the Trapped Alligator
When it comes to trapping an alligator, setting the trap is usually the easy part. It’s what happens after you capture the animal that is both dangerous and difficult. This is especially true if you’re using a live trap.
The safest way to deal with a trapped live alligator is to call an animal control expert to handle the removal and relocation of the animal. If you have to do it yourself, then make sure to secure the alligator’s head with a lasso before you get near to it. Also, watch out for its tail. One whack from the alligator’s tail can inflict serious pain and damage.
Alligator Diet and Habitat
When Spanish explorers first set eyes on the American alligator in Florida, they thought it looked like a giant lizard. Hence they called it ‘el Lagarto’ which later became ‘alligator’ in English. They live mainly in the southeast states where you can find them in rivers, ponds, wetlands, swamps, marshes, and lakes.
Alligators prefer to hunt small animals that are either too slow or just easier to catch. Turtles and fish are a favorite alligator food. But chicken and other fowls are not off the menu either. If the alligator can trap a waterfowl or a small animal it will swallow it whole in one gulp.
Female alligators tend to lay eggs in July each year. Within two months the eggs hatch and the babies are ready to hunt insects, snails and small fish to feed. Some can live for more than 70 years and reach 13 feet in length. The average alligator weighs around 600 pounds.
Where do Alligators Go when it Gets Cold?
Because alligators are cold-blooded, they need the sun to get the energy to hunt. This is why you see them sunning themselves for hours every day. When it gets cold, they can’t hunt and stop feeding altogether.
As the temperature drops, alligators dig burrows in the bank of the river or lake to hide from the cold. It’s an effective way to keep themselves from freezing cold. Sometimes when ice covers the water surface, you’ll see alligators hanging in the lake with their nostrils above water so they can breathe.
An alligator trapped in snow can survive the freezing temperatures. You might think it’s dead, but it’s not. Once the ice melts, they’ll swim away and go looking for food. These cousins of dinosaurs are amazing survivors so be careful when you approach them even when they look frozen and dead.
Why do Alligators Leave their Mouths Open?
If you live near the natural habitat of alligators, it’s a common sight to see these large animals lying around with their mouths open. That doesn’t mean they’re waiting to gobble you down. That’s just their way of staying cool.
Alligators and crocodiles don’t have sweat glands. So the only way they can bring their body temperature down is to open their large mouths and allow some air in, so to speak. This harmless gesture regulates their body temperature and prevents them from becoming exhausted with the hot weather.
Speaking of alligator mouths, despite their having one of the strongest bites among all predators, the muscles that open their jaws are relatively weak. This is why it’s easy for people to force an alligator’s mouth open with their bare hands.
How Fast can Alligators Run?
The answer to that is not very fast. People often talk about the need to run in zigzag when being chased by an alligator. But that’s just an urban myth since alligators are too lazy to run.
Even their hunting strategy mostly involves lurking around and waiting for their prey to come to them. They hide in shallow water until a deer comes to drink or a waterfowl comes within reach. But they don’t have the stamina to chase any animals for long.
On land, alligators are too clumsy and slow to go after anything including people. So if you find yourself within close proximity of an alligator, your best option is to retreat quickly and be ready to run if it moves in your direction.
How Fast are Crocodiles in the Water?
The water is where crocodiles and alligators can maneuver and show off their agile skills. Their strong tail and aerodynamic bodies allow them to go up to almost 20 miles per hour. As adept swimmers, you don’t have a chance to try to outswim these reptiles.
Besides the long tail which acts both as a rudder and propeller, the crocodile bends its short limbs close to its body while swimming thus turning it into a sleek projectile. Once it spots prey in the water, it swims extremely fast and snags it before the competitors.
Having said that, and despite their great skills at swimming, these reptiles prefer to stay motionless in the water. It helps them hide and blend in so that their victims cannot spot them. Usually, it’s the element of surprise that gets them the most food, more than their mobility.
Are Alligators Aggressive to Humans?
Alligators don’t usually have humans on their menu. We’ve already seen how they like to go after small animals especially those slow enough to be captured like turtles. And since humans are both too large and nimble, alligators don’t target them.
But that doesn’t mean that if you come too close to one, it won’t attack you. According to the Florida Wildlife and Conservation Commission, the number of fatal encounters with alligators is only 24 in the last 50 years. That makes these reptiles a very low risk.
However, don’t be fooled by the low numbers. These are just the stats for fatal incidents. They don’t include attacks by alligators that resulted in non-fatal injuries. In other words, don’t forget that these animals have huge teeth and won’t hesitate to attack you if you disturb them.
Is Alligator Skin Bulletproof?
This is another urban myth that has been making the rounds even long before social media was a thing. It’s not clear where it started but it’s not true at all. As we’ll see later, shooting an alligator can be one of the fastest ways to get rid of the dangerous reptile.
In fact, the only way an alligator can stop a bullet is if it were wearing a kevlar. It’s true its hide is one of the strongest in the animal kingdom and it grows thicker as the reptile gets older, but it’s no matter for a firearm. A closer look at the alligator’s anatomy might tell us why some people think their skin is bulletproof.
Under the skin of the alligator, there are bony plates that protect its soft inside. These plates are so tough they act as shields. A bullet from a small-caliber gun might bounce off the animal if it hit those bone shields. But the same isn’t true for a large weapon such as a rifle.
Do Alligators Feel Pain?
Alligators and crocodiles have a reputation for being cold-hearted killers. The term ‘alligator tears’ refers to the fake tears they shed when swallowing a large chunk of meat. So that must mean they can’t feel pain, right?
That is absolutely not true. Despite their thick skin, alligators are extremely sensitive. And they need their skin to be extra touchy. After all, that’s how they detect movement in the water and can sense prey even before they see it.
Just like any other living organism, alligators have a complex nervous system. The nerve ends on their skin and extremities alert them of any source of pain or injury. So, yes, alligators do feel pain just like you and me. This is why when trapping an alligator it’s important to make sure it doesn’t suffer. Sometimes a quick kill is the most humane way to get rid of the animal.
Do Alligators Have Scales?
Unlike fish and other reptiles, alligators have a unique set of scales called ‘scutes’. These scutes are larger and more developed than the regular scales you see on fish. However, these bulky scales don’t affect the animal’s mobility as they’re flexible.
One of the main functions of scutes is to prevent water loss. Since alligators spend hours in the sun, they risk getting dehydrated. This is why the back of the animal is covered with huge scutes as opposed to the belly or the sides.
Alligator scutes develop in layers and when the animal loses one, it gets replaced from below. Each scute grows on its own and is not attached to the other scutes around it. This gives the alligator the flexibility to swim at fast speeds.
Are There Crocodiles in Florida?
American crocodiles can be found mostly in the Caribbean. However, their territory extends to South Florida where they live in saltwater marshes. However, you can also find them inland in freshwater coves and creeks as they move in the Florida canals.
This prevalent presence, of course, can result in many encounters with people. In most cases, the crocodiles will jump into the water when startled by a human while sunning themselves. If that happens to you, don’t be frightened. The crocodiles were just as scared as you are.
But sometimes the encounters are deliberate such as this one reported by Business Insider. This being Florida, a guy put on Croc shoes and decided to pay the crocodiles a visit. The animals weren’t amused and attacked him. He managed to escape though, leaving behind the Crocs and his only pair of shorts. I guess he got off lightly.
Mike Zhang. Founder of FamilyLifeShare