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Alligator Tips for Kayakers and Canoeists


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Schessl | Green Wave Forum
Published Saturday, June 09, 2007

“Gator on the right.” When you're out kayaking or canoeing nothing can wake you from a lazy river trip like those four little words. Heart pounding, eyes wide open, sit up straight - ok, where is he?

This summer it will be 12 years since landing on the sunny shores of Pascua de Florida (via Colorado), but I still remember the fear of those first kayak trips and coming upon a 'gator. Now days I'm not quite so jumpy but I still give them plenty of room and respect. Yes, even the little ones. You never know when mama is hiding in the weeds or just around the corner.

Do you have a fear of alligators? Yes, no? Ok, maybe not a fear but a healthy respect for our largest cold-blooded reptile that has been around since the time of dinosaurs? Based on the number of emails that comes in to ClubKayak.com, I'm thinking I may not be alone on this one.

To help alleviate the fears, here are some safety tips from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

  • Leave alligators alone. State law prohibits killing, harassing, molesting or attempting to move alligators. This first one is a biggie. Just like with snakebites, lots of people learn the hard way that you don't mess with wild animals.
  • Closely supervise children when playing in and around water. Never let small children play by themselves near water. A lot of other things can (and will) go wrong if you leave small kids alone in the water - think drowning for one.
  • Don't swim in areas that may contain large alligators. For me, I don't swim anywhere I *know* there is an alligator over 3 feet.
  • Swim only during daylight hours.Alligators feet at dusk, dawn and night.
  • Never feed alligators. It's dangerous and illegal. Feeding 'gators is a bad idea. If you just can't resist the urge, apply at your local zoo and have fun.
  • Don't allow pets (dogs!) to swim, exercise or drink in waters that are known to contain alligators.
  • Never remove an alligator from its habitator accept one as a pet.
  • Enjoy viewing and photography from a distance.


Here is a tidbit that I heard that might help you decide how close to get to an alligator. Someone once told me that a 7-foot alligator can kill an adult, a 9-footer can eat them and all alligators no matter how small will leave you with a nasty bite that you'll remember for the rest of your days.

For me, distance depends on the size of the 'gator. My personal rule goes like this - stay 4 feet away for every one-foot of length of the gator, with a minimum of 10 feet. So a 5-foot alligators get 20 feet of room. A 10-footer gets 40 feet. You make up whatever you feel comfortable with.

So there you have it, some facts from FWC and commentary from me. I hope this page helps you understand alligators better and allows you to enjoy viewing them - from a distance!


Last update Saturday, December 01, 2007


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Cmt Alligator Tips for Kayakers and Can...Login to Post   
You are in the public comment zone. What follows is not from Green Wave Forum; it comes from other people and we don't vouch for it.
Unknown on 7/1/2007 9:39pm
Being a native Floridian I have both seen more alligators and heard of more alligator attack stories than I care to remember.

Mainly because we are in Florida by following the below link you will see that all recorded attacks since 1973 that resulted in death are in our great state.

Click Here To Visit Wikipedia

A nesting gator will become aggressive if you get to near it's nest. It can spring on land for short spurts at speeds of up to 30 MPH.

A gator that has been trained by stupid humans that we will give it food will loose it's fear. It can then relate humans and food and if it isn't offered food it might view you as food.

My suggestion is if you encounter these creatures, get as far as you can away from them. Snap any pictures you feel you might want or need and then vacate the area. Leave them to their environment. IT I~