Damage to Structures
Alligators sometimes excavate burrows or dens for refuge from cold temperatures, drought, other alligators, and humans. Alligator burrowing can damage dikes, levees, impoundments, and breach fences.
Damage to Livestock and Pets
Alligators prey on any animals they can physically consume. They readily take domestic dogs and cats. Losses of livestock other than domestic waterfowl are uncommon and difficult to verify. In rural areas, large alligators may take calves, foals, goats, hogs, domestic waterfowl, or occasionally, full-grown cattle and horses.
Damage to Landscapes
Alligators sometimes cause damage to turf and other landscapes with their burrowing and nesting activities.
Health and Safety Concerns
Alligators usually are not aggressive toward humans. Unprovoked attacks by alligators smaller than 5 feet are rare, but unusual behavior does occur. Single bites usually are made by alligators that are less than 8 feet long. Most bites occur in Florida, which documented 340 attacks between 1948 and 2006, of which 17 resulted in human fatalities. Attacks also have been documented in South Carolina, Louisiana, Texas, Georgia, and Alabama. Most attacks are non-fatal, although a third involved repeated bites, major injury, or death.
Serious and repeated attacks normally are made by alligators greater than 8 feet in length, and most likely are the result of chasing and feeding. Death occurs either by suffocation or drowning. People who survive an alligator attack may succumb to infection due to gram-negative bacteria, particularly Aeromonas, present in the mouths of alligators. All alligator bites require medical treatment, and serious wounds may require hospitalization.
Alligators inflict damage with sharp, cone-shaped teeth and powerful jaws. Bites are characterized by puncture wounds and torn flesh. Alligators often seize an appendage and twist it off by spinning. Many serious injuries involve badly damaged and broken arms on humans, or legs on other animals. Necropsies of alligators that attacked humans have shown that most are healthy and well-nourished. Alligators sometimes bite or eat people that have previously drowned. Coroners can determine whether a person drowned before or after being bitten.
Few attacks are attributed to wounded or territorial alligators, or females defending their nests or young. When defending a territory, alligators normally display, vocalize, and approach on the surface of the water where they can be more intimidating. Female alligators frequently defend their nests and young, but no reports have been confirmed of humans being bitten by a protective female. Females that are brooding typically try to intimidate intruders by displaying and hissing before attacking.
In most serious alligator attacks, victims were unaware of the alligator prior to the attack. Most attacks occur in water, but alligators have assaulted humans and pets on land. People that are walking pets often are the secondary target after the pet escapes. Alligators quickly become conditioned, especially when food is associated with humans. Alligators that are habituated to humans can be dangerous, especially to children. Alligators that are fed by humans often become aggressive and must be removed. Ponds and waterways at golf courses and high-density housing are problem sites when alligators become accustomed to living near people.
In the rare event that you are attacked, awareness of alligator behavior may save your life. Alligators clamp down with powerful jaws, then twist and roll. If an alligator bites your arm, it may help to grab the alligator and roll with it to reduce further tearing of the arm. Strike the nose of the alligator hard and often and try to gouge the eyes. If possible, do not allow the alligator to pull you into the water.