When people think of Florida, they often think of the sunshine and beaches, and there is no shortage of places to go swimming with your dog! It’s not uncommon for people to take their dogs out in the water during the summertime, and it seems like a lot of fun! But there is one terrifying creature lurking in the swamps that you should be aware of, and that is alligators.
In this article, we will talk about what to do if you see an alligator and give you tips on how to keep your adventurous pup safe from these creatures! But before we dig into that, here are some facts about alligators you need to know.
Facts About Alligators
Alligators are a common sight in Florida’s wetlands, but their presence can prove quite dangerous for your dog. And according to the Defenders of Wildlife, roughly 1.25 million alligators live in the state of Florida! They can grow to be up to 11 feet long and weigh a whopping five hundred pounds! They are more active during the spring and summer months and tend to be the most active at dusk and dawn.
These creatures are dangerous for dogs because they are instinctually territorial and will attack if the animal intrudes on their territory. They usually live in freshwater lakes, ponds, swamps, and slow-moving rivers. And during their mating season, which is in May or June, they can become highly aggressive, meaning they are the most dangerous at that time!
Alligators are opportunistic feeders that will eat anything from fish to turtles, snakes, frogs, small mammals like raccoons and deer, or even dogs! They also occasionally chew on birds when they come across them near water sources.
They tend to hunt animals by surprise, attacking their prey from behind, dragging them into deep water where it’s too difficult for other animals to reach them. Alligators are also known for their quickness, so you should keep your canine on a leash when walking them near a body of water that alligators may inhabit as you never know what might happen!
According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, alligators can run up to 35 miles per hour for short distances on land, so if you see one, it is best not to approach it for any reason.
What to do if You See an Alligator
If you see a gator in the wild, whether while paddling, boating, or hiking with your canine, it is best to stay back and maintain a safe distance of at least 60 feet. They usually will not approach you as they have a natural fear of humans, but if an alligator does come close to you or try to attack in any way, run!
Don’t run in a zigzag pattern, but a straight line so that you can get as quick and far away from the alligator as possible. If you cannot escape, don’t play dead but fight back as hard as you can! Gauge its eyes and hit its snout as that’s their only vulnerable spot.
Never attempt to entice or feed the gator or leave any food that they can grab because they will associate people with food, leading to more frequent attacks on people. And don’t harass the gator by throwing rocks or sticks at them as it will only make them more aggressive, which will, in turn, increase the chances of you being bitten or injured.
What Happens if an Alligator Attacks Your Dog?
When alligators attack dogs, they usually don’t go down without a fight, so be prepared for that! Grab any object around you, such as sticks, rocks, or anything available at the time of the attack, and hit the gator on its snout with whatever you have until it releases your canine companion. That said, it’s best not to try and rescue your pup yourself if you are unable to do so without risking injury. The best way to prevent an alligator attack? Never meet one in the first place! So take proper precautions.
Keeping Your Dog Safe From Alligator Attacks!
1. Examine the Area
Doing a thorough check around the area before letting your pup swim is as important as putting a dog life vest on them. Although there’s never a way to know for sure that there are alligators since they can lie motionless underwater for an extended period, you can still scour the shoreline and check shallow and weedy patches of a swamp as they are known to lurk in those areas. Also, try to listen for hissing because gators are usually more vocal when you are in their territory or when they feel threatened.
2. Keep Your Dog on a Leash
It is crucial to leash your pup and never let them wander off without you being able to see them, as they can run into a gator at any time. You would also want to avoid bushes and grassy areas and keep a safe distance from the water. The reason is that gators like to stay still and blend in with their surroundings, so it would be hard for your pup to notice them.
3. Be Aware of Your Surroundings
Always remain alert to your surroundings and what might attract an alligator to you or your pup, such as food scraps, fish guts at the dock, and among other things that could potentially lure them in the area. It is best to assume that even if you can’t see any gators around, they are still there, especially around muddy or murky water!
4. Only Swim in Designated Swimming Areas
Common sense! You would want to swim in designated swimming areas only, not places where there are a “No Swimming” sign and alligators are known to live! And only swim during daylight hours as gators are known to be most active between dusk and dawn, which we have already mentioned earlier.
5. Let Your Drink Out of a Water Bottle
Never let your canine drink out of the lake or river, as there could be alligators lurking beneath the surface waiting for their next meal. So let your furry friend drink from a water bottle instead. That will not only lessen the possibilities of a close encounter with an alligator but can also help keep your pup safe from potential water pollutants like bacteria, viruses, and parasites.
6. Stomp Your Feet
Encounter an alligator blocking the trail? Stomp your feet! The reason is that stomping your feet can make loud noises and vibrations, alerting any alligators in the area to the presence of something larger and forcing them to move out of your way. If it doesn’t respond, cut the hike short, turn around, and head back to your car. But if you have no choice and have to pass it, pass by its tail and keep at least 60 feet away from it, so it doesn’t feel trapped or threatened and has to defend itself on you.
Always stay vigilant when walking your four-footed friend near swamps or marshes, where there may be a higher possibility of encountering an alligator. Keep your fido under control, double-check where you’re going, and stay away from the water’s edge. If you come across an alligator, don’t disturb or throw things at it. Leave it alone and back away from it!