A 72-year-old man, presumably an RVer, lost the lower part of his leg in an alligator attack on Friday, April 14. Brevard County, Florida, rescue officials were called to the Great Outdoors RV Nature & Golf Resort in Titusville after an emergency call reported a gator attack near a park retention pond. Dispatch recordings spell out the terrible details: “Per the caller, we have confirmed amputation.” The horrific story sounds like a chapter out of Outdoor Life magazine’s This happened to me feature, but, sad to say, alligator attacks aren’t unheard of. Could you make a gator getaway?
Five million alligators in ten states
Alligator attacks happen. Imagine yourself in any of these scenarios: You open your front door and find a surprise visitor. A gator lunges at you, biting your upper thigh. Or when you take Bowser out for his daily stroll—a 10-foot alligator grabs and kills you! Both these events have happened just this year in Florida.
But don’t write off Florida from your travel plans. The Everglades State has plenty of gator company. There are an estimated five million “wild” alligators (no numbers on “tame” ones) across 10 U.S. states. Gators range from Florida, north into North Carolina, and as far west as the southeast corner of Oklahoma. In terms of numbers, there’s roughly two million gators in Louisiana, the state with the most gators.
Rare occurrence—but a quick “gator getaway” course can help
If goosebumps are rising, settle on down. In real-life terms, unprovoked alligator attacks are a fairly rare situation. In a 73-year period ending in 2021, Florida’s gators only accounted for 26 “death by gator” records; that was from a total of 442 bites in the same time frame. Still, if you RV in alligator country, it’s not bad to take a quick course on alligator safety.
Tennyson could have been poetizing about gators when he wrote, “In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.” Gators are busy with their reproductive tango from spring all the way into summer. Mama Gator tends to be a bit snappish when she’s guarding a hatch of eggs, and even more so when the eggs hatch. That could go on into fall. Winter, when things are cold (from a gator perspective) is probably the “safest” time of the year. When temps are in the 80s, gators spend most of their daytime drowsing. Planning on a little skinny dip? Mooning in the moonlight could bring you face-to-face (or some other part of your anatomy) with an unwelcome face-full of teeth.
Generally speaking, you put yourself in the most danger of an alligator attack if you provoke the gliding reptile. To that end, here are some simple rules:
- Don’t feed the gators! Left alone, gators generally aren’t interested in humans. But when they begin to associate two arms, two legs, and a head with food, trouble begins.
- Don’t feed the duckies or turtles if they live in gator waters.
- This should be obvious—Don’t grab a gator by the tail! For some reason, alligators really resent this and tend to react badly.
- Don’t mess with gator babies. Yes, they’re cute, but a foot-long alligator is probably being watched by a mama that’s 10 times as large.
- If you’re out on the water, don’t slap your kayak paddles on the water to scare off a gator. They’ll likely take that action as a threat. Best to keep paddling and ignore them.
- If you see a gator on land, stay back at least 60 feet. If a gator lunges at you, or hisses, one of you hasn’t got the tape measure out. Back off!
- Driving and an alligator strolls out on the pavement? Stop and ponder the imponderable question of, “Why did the alligator cross the road?” A motorist was once killed when he smashed into a gator—they’re really big and heavy.
For more great gator getaway tips, visit the Florida Wildlife Commissions site, Living with Alligators and Crocodiles, and click on, “Living With Alligators brochure”.
As to the man who lost his leg to the gator in Titusville, he was airlifted to a trauma center for treatment. An alligator trapper was called to the scene—he removed two gators, but it wasn’t clear if either of them were responsible for the sad incident. [Other reports state deputies from the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office found the gator in the water with the man’s foot protruding from its mouth. It was reportedly shot dead by officers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.]
I would like a breakdown of the 73 year figures of attacks and killings by gators.
What was the number 73 years ago vs 2023.
I bet there are far more attacks happening now vs then.
Hi, Tim. Here’s a list from Wikipedia of fatal alligator attacks in the U.S. going back to 1685(!): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fatal_alligator_attacks_in_the_United_States Interesting! (And I’m very glad we don’t have gators or crocs in the Pacific Northwest!) Have a great day. 😀 –Diane at RVtravel.com
“They were here before us….”
So were rats, mice, mosquitos, flies, fleas and roaches..
What…are you saying we’re invading their space?
Can you outrun a gator?
Nope, not a short run anyhow. That’s why when we are in Florida the first order of business after camp is set up is to find a walking buddy that appears slower and tastier than I do, to either walk with or follow around the pond.
Their top speed on land is reported to be 35 mph. Amazing for something so heavy on those 4 short stubby legs. About the same speed of a powerful, long legged, horse with rider. But horses don’t eat you. Visit gators in the zoo when in Florida. Been in Fla over 50 years and have only seen a gator in the wild twice. However you will not find me walking along the bank of a waterway. I take the same proximity cautions with Bison, Bear, Elk, when in the Black Hills. I was taught the definition of WILD at a young age – to include squirrels and mocking birds here in Florida.
They say you should run in a zig zag fashion as alligators have poor cornering ability. But then again there are no documented cases of alligators chasing humans on land.
I believe that is a picture of a croc, not a gator…jus’ sayin’…
I would tend to agree with you.
It amazes me at the number of people who walk their small dogs along the edge of a lake.
You might as well wear a shirt with the saying “Dinner is Served, Come and Get it”
Here in our community in SC, alligators are in every pond. A large one (10 feet or so) was recently removed due to size. I naively assumed the state moves them to a more remote area, but found out they kill them. They give me the creeps, but they were here first.
We live in TGO. Alligators are not “removed”. They are killed by the Florida Wildlife Commission if they called and the gator is deemed a threat! We love to see the alligators and all our wildlife here. TGO has been open for 20+ years and this is he first human attack. Much better odds than driving your car.
Extreme bummer. I don’t think I could live around them. I’m very careful if we go through rattlesnake country because of my dog. I do show a great respect for our cougars and bears. They just want to be left alone, and they travel through my place.
You CAN”T be distracted by anything around gator habitat-which can include every large puddle in this state. If your ball lands in a retention pond, especially in mating season, it’s game over. Stay away from tall weeds near water. If you have to enter tall weeds near water anyway, at least take a club or walking stick and thwack constantly at the vegetation in front of you to warn off the gators. We’ve warned canoists on sandbars with free running dogs (gators consider dogs to be Scooby snacks) that they were being approached by gators and gotten a finger for our efforts. A quick guide to size approximation- the distance from nostrils to eyes in inches is approximately length of gator in feet.
Someone gave you the finger? Can’t see that. LOL. 😆😂🤣😆😂
Have a good weekend.
The story doesn’t give all the details like what if anything did the man do to cause the gator to bite him. But I go on record to say “I don’t like seeing animals killed over the negligence of humans.” Animals are most often being “animals”. We, humans, need to give them space. After all they were here before us.
Yep, when land is cleared to build homes and apartments the natural habitat of wild life is destroyed and they don’t know they’re not supposed to be in that area any longer. Similar situation when city folks visit Yellowstone and think they can walk up and pet the cute bison and wind up in the hospital or worse.