Disney Tragedy: What to Know About Alligator Attacks in the U.S.
An alligator swims in the murky waters of the Florida Everglades during the rainy season at the Everglades National Park, Friday, July 26, 2013. Seasonal rains bring higher water levels within the Everglades, causing wildlife such alligators to disperse and seen less frequently.J Pat Carter / AP file
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After the tragedy of the 2-year-old boy who was attacked and killed by an alligator at a Disney in Florida, the resort is adding warning signs around its beaches. How much of a risk are alligators to people?
In the U.S. alligators can be found in Florida,Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Texas, and Oklahoma. In a 2004 report by Dr. Ricky Langley from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, he wrote that alligators are not generally aggressive to humans, but as more people move to coastal areas — especially in Florida— encounters with the predators will likely increase.
Read on for more:
Alligator Attacks are Rare and in Most Cases Not Deadly
Nearly 90 percent of all alligator attacks in the U.S. happen in Florida.According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission there have been 56 alligator attacks in the Sunshine State between 2010 and 2015, with only one fatality. The main reason is, small alligators make up the majority of the alligator population and don’t pose a threat to human beings.
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Trying to Capture an Alligator is the Most Common Way People Get “Attacked”
This might be surprising but trying to capture an alligator is the most common way people get bitten by one, according to a study looking at 305 attacks in Florida. Seventeen percent of all alligator attacks in the report were based on attempting to capture or pick up an alligator, followed by swimming and fishing.
The Deadliness of an Alligator Attack Depends on the Size of the Animal
In a study on alligator attacks on humans in the US, the length of the alligators associated with a deadly attack ranged from 5’7 feet to 12’5 feet. Serious and repeated attacks are usually made by alligators over 8 feet.
Even if You Get Bitten by a Small Alligator Make Sure to See a Doctor
While a bite from a small alligator may not be life threatening, it still requires a visit to the hospital. Alligators and other reptiles have extremely germy mouths, contaminated with numerous bacteria and fungal species. Their bites are considered dirty wounds so proper wound care as well as antibiotic treatment are always necessary to avoid dangerous infections.
Feeding Alligators Makes the Animals “Hungry” for Human Beings
Alligators quickly become conditioned to human beings, especially when food is involved. Those so called “food-habituated alligators” lose their fear of humans and can be very dangerous to an unsuspecting person.
Best Way to Protect Yourself and Your Children From Alligator Attacks
Alligators are usually shy of human beings and attacks are rare. If you are worried about preventing an attack the best thing you can do is pay attention to the most vulnerable members: Children and pets.
Keep small children and pets away from waters that may be inhabited by alligators, don’t swim outside posted swimming areas and don’t swim at dawn, dusk, or nighttime when alligators most actively feed.
Felix Gussone, MD
Felix Gussone is an Associate Producer for NBC News, where he works for the Health & Medical Unit.
Samuel Sarmiento, MD
Samuel Sarmiento is a medical fellow for NBC News, where he works for the Health & Medical Unit.