Encountering Alligators While Kayaking
Contributed by Victoria Adams
Alligators can be found in the Southern portions of the United States such as Florida, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, South and North Carolina, Mississippi, Eastern Texas, Virginia, and the southern tip of Oklahoma. Avid Kayakers need to be aware of proper safety measures and what one should do if they encounter an alligator while kayaking in these areas. Alligators have the capability to kill a human, but are naturally wary of people and will only attack when provoked.
In some states there are laws that protect alligators from harassment and molestation by tourists. So by all means kayak and enjoy the water, but be cautious and respectful of Alligators and their environment.
Be prepared and contact your local fish and wildlife organization for information about Alligator mating season, behavioral patterns, and the times that predators feed.
What do you do if you encounter an Alligator on your trip?
- Do not panic! Just leave them alone! And Don’t Feed Them! It is against the law to feed Alligators. The reason is because if humans feed alligators then alligators will become desensitized and more prone to attack.
- A must for kayaking in dangerous waters is a PDF whistle. PDF stands for personal flotation device. The whistle is typically plastic and without a pea in it to prevent corrosion and to facilitate using it if it gets wet and is attached to your life jacket so you don’t lose it. If you encounter an alligator you can use the noise from your PDF whistle to scare it off.
- If you are in an area where you see signs of Alligator activity (for example a muddy wallow where they like to roll, a slide for them to slip into the lake or river, and/or Alligator eggs), leave the area as quickly and as calmly as you can. Gators are naturally territorial and will defend their eggs aggressively.
More than likely if you encounter a gator and it is your first time seeing one you are going to panic. You may feel threatened, and you may want to run or paddle wildly. If possible, try to have someone who has experience in gator encounters with you when paddling in potential gator areas. The buddy system works wonders in helping you overcome your fears. If you see gator activity in an area, make a notation and call the fish and wildlife organization and notify them of your sighting.
This might make you feel a little safer if you are kayaking in an inflatable kayak or a folding kayak. Most of the material components in these type kayaks are designed to keep you afloat even if the hull of your boat is punctured. For example, even the smallest Sea Eagle 330 inflatable kayak has three separate air chambers for the floor and each side of the kayak. Most importantly be safe, do your research about the area you choose to kayak, and have respect for the alligator populations leave them alone.
If you’d like to read more, here are a collection of links to a variety of additional information about alligators in general and kayaking around alligators.