Are alligators in Orlando dangerous?

Top-down view of an alligator in a swamp. Orange text reads, "Alligators in Orlando," in B-movie style.

Alligator Safety in Florida

Something that most humans don’t spend a lot of time worrying about is alligator attacks. For those living or traveling in Florida, however, things may be different. The state does have quite a few alligators, and there have been attacks in the past.

Orlando is not exempt from the love alligators have for the Floridian environment. Should you be worried? Are alligators in Orlando dangerous?

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Though alligator attacks do happen, they’re rare. As of 2016, 13 people in Florida had died of alligator attacks since the beginning of the century. In general, such attacks are the type of incident that makes headlines and sounds scary, but are very unlikely to happen to you in real life.

A sign warns against swimming due to alligator danger. A small cartoon alligator wearing a cowboy hat is perched on a rock nearby.How can I stay safe from alligators?

The risk of an attack can be minimized by exercising caution. Note that alligators live in bodies of water such as marshes, swamps, rivers, canals and lakes. The most dangerous period of time is usually dusk or dawn, when children splashing near the shoreline can appear similar to an alligator’s usual prey.

Alligators are most active at night. To be safe, keep children, animals, and probably yourself away from the water from dusk until dawn.

How many alligators are in Florida?

As of 2016, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reported 1.3 million alligators across the state, which would equal one alligator for every 15 people. Considering the number of alligators, attacks are rare.

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What should you do if you encounter an alligator?

If you come across an alligator, give it space. If you see one in the water (this may seem pretty obvious), don’t go in.

The danger zone when encountering an alligator is about half its body length, directly in front and about 80 or 90 degrees from either side. Within that distance, the alligator can strike rapidly.

If you find yourself this close, the best course of action is to back off and run away. Though there’s a myth that you should run in zigzags from a gator, it’s actually best to simply run in a straight line directly away.

Be warned that alligators can move up to 35 miles-per-hour for short distances on land. That’s faster than any human being. Contrary to appearance, alligators are very quick and agile creatures when they choose to be.

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What should you do if you get bit?

If you do find yourself attacked by the alligator, the expert advice is to fight as viciously as you can. Alligators and other crocodilian reptiles tend to release prey that seems too strong and dangerous to be worth the effort/risk.

James Perran Ross, retired associate scientist of wildlife ecology and conservation at the University of Florida, puts it this way: “Struggle, fight, push, gouge, scream – anything you can do to get away.” Aim specifically for their snout and eyes, which are sensitive.

If you are injured, seek medical attention immediately. The bites can often result in nasty infections.

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