Experts share tips on how to stay safe around alligators, survive possible attack

An alligator.
(Image credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Wildlife experts say that while it's rare for an unprovoked alligator to attack, there are several safety tips people need to keep in mind when it comes to being around gators: Don't approach them, don't feed them, and don't stop screaming if you are bit.

On Tuesday night, an alligator came out of a lagoon at Disney World's Grand Floridian Resort and attacked and dragged away a 2-year-old boy; his body was found in the water on Wednesday. Florida is home to millions of alligators, but attacks are rare because they are naturally afraid of humans, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says. On average, there are seven bites a year in Florida that require medical attention, from both provoked and unprovoked attacks.

A majority of unprovoked attacks take place in or near brackish or fresh water, when a gator is hungry or feels threatened, the commission said. If you don't know if the water is safe for swimming, stay out, and be aware of your surroundings when on the shoreline — most alligators go after small prey within a few feet of shoreline. Experts say to keep an eye on children along the shoreline and avoid having dogs there, as dogs resemble an alligator's natural prey and could attract hungry gators. Regardless of an alligator's size, experts say don't ever approach one, and restrict swimming around dusk and dawn, their hunting times. Never hand-feed an alligator, since it makes them lose their fear of humans, and if you are bit, scream and move your limbs, hitting and kicking the alligator in the face and around the eyes. If they release their powerful jaw, continue to make noise until the gator leaves, then immediately get medical attention. You can find more safety tips at People.

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