- At least four people have been killed in alligator attacks in 2022.
- Alligator attacks are rare and there is even less chance of being killed by one.
- Alligators are naturally afraid of humans, but will attack in some cases.
A woman was killed in an alligator attack Monday in South Carolina, officials confirmed, in what has become an unusual year for alligator attacks.
It was the fourth death from alligator attacks this year after a man was killed searching for Frisbees on May 31 in Florida, another man was killed near a retention pond in North Carolina South on June 24 and an 80-year-old Florida woman was killed alongside a golf course.
These aren’t the only run-ins people have had with the creatures. A 43-year-old man was attacked by an alligator and treated for a “serious arm injury” on July 20 and a 34-year-old man was bitten in the face while swimming in a Florida lake on August 4. .
Florida is known to be the home of alligators, and residents have many encounters with the reptiles near their homes, golf courses or roadways.
Yet attacks, especially fatal ones, are rare.
“With the number of people and the number of alligators, it’s really surprising that it doesn’t happen more often,” said Frank Mazzotti, a professor of wildlife ecology and a member of Croc Docs at the University. from Florida, at USA TODAY. .
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Where are there alligators in the United States?
Alligators are found throughout the Southeast and wetlands, with their range extending as far west as eastern Texas and as far east as coastal North Carolina , according to the National Wildlife Federation.
The creature is most abundant in Louisiana and Florida, with each state having a population of over one million alligators.
“Wherever there is standing water, an alligator can be found,” the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said in a statement to USA TODAY.
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How common are alligator attacks?
Alligator attacks are very rare, even in Louisiana and Florida.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says licensed hunters kill more than 1,000 nuisance alligators — all of which are considered a “threat to pets, livestock, or humans” — a year, and Attack reports in the state are usually just encounters.
The Florida Conservation Commission said in November 2021 that there have been 442 unprovoked alligator bites in Florida from 1948 to 2021, an average of six per year. Of those bites, 26 were fatal, meaning there was a fatal injury nearly every three years in the state.
Nationally, between 1948 and August 2004, 376 injuries and 15 deaths from encounters with alligators were reported in the United States, which means one death reported every three to four years, according to a study by 2004 published in the scientific journal Wilderness & Environmental Medicine. . However, the study at the time cited the need for a “uniform reporting system across states” to obtain more complete information about alligator encounters.
The Florida commission said the odds of a Florida resident being seriously injured in an unprovoked alligator attack are one in 3.1 million. For reference, you have a higher chance of being attacked by a grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park. Mazzoti said you’re more likely to drown in water than to be attacked by an alligator.
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What should I do if I am near an alligator?
Although rare, attacks do occur.
Alligators typically breed and seek out new habitats in spring and summer, which means there could be an increase in alligator activity.
The good news for humans: Alligators have a natural fear of humans and typically retreat when approached, says Texas Parks and Wildlife. Mazzoti added that alligators “do not perceive humans as a threat or as food.”
However, alligators may be more likely to approach humans if fed by one, which is why it is illegal to do so in many states. Alligators only attack when threatened or cornered, but if a human is in the water with alligators, it can attract them.
“Splashing in the water will attract the interest of alligators, and if they then perceive that there is something smaller and weaker in the water, they might attack it,” Mazzoti said. “Every time you stand next to the water, you are taking a risk…don’t take it.”
What to do if an alligator attacks
Texas Parks and Wildlife says a safe distance from an alligator is at least 30 feet, and while it’s extremely rare for them to hunt humans, they can run up to 35 mph for a short time. .
University of Florida experts advise running in a straight line if an alligator is chasing you. If an alligator attacks, experts say to poke its eyes and punch and kick it around the head. You can induce an alligator’s gag reflex by jamming objects in the back of its mouth, and when it tries to reposition its prey in its mouth, it’s your chance to escape.
“If you must be attacked, fight like your life depends on it,” Mazzoti said.
Follow Jordan Mendoza on Twitter: @jordan_mendoza5.