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Protect Your Home From Gators

Are gators really something to worry about?

Believe it or not, alligators and humans can cohabitate, at a safe distance from each other of course, and they do in many communities throughout the southern United States. Have you ever played a round of golf at a southern course? If so, chances are you’ve seen a gator lurking nearby a hole or slithering across a green to an adjacent body of water.

Gators in your yard

There’s a common misconception that gators often attack humans and this simply is not the case. The giant reptiles prefer to keep to themselves, but they’ll let you know when you are too close for comfort with a snake-like hiss. If this happens, back away slowly. In any case, they’re more likely to run from you.

Gator Facts

  • Gators can reach up to 35 miles per hour — that’s faster than the fastest recorded human speed at 27.5 miles per hour!
  • An alligator’s bite applies 300 pounds of pressure per square inch, easily crushing through hard surfaces like turtle shells.
  • Alligators are also capable of growing new teeth throughout their lifespan, regenerating each tooth up to 50 times.
  • An alligator’s brain is the size of your little finger curled up, yet they have well-developed higher cognitive skills and are adept at learning patterns in their environment.
  • Did you know alligators have glow-in-the-dark eyes? They also have excellent eyesight and see about as well as we do.
  • If you find yourself needing to run from a gator (we hope you never do!), choose a straight line. Many people think running a zig-zag pattern will somehow outsmart the gator, but a straight line is truly the best route to take.
  • Gators are extremely sensitive to touch or vibration, so sensitive that they can detect a single drop of water in the dark and reorient their body in relation to it.
  • The male alligator marks his territory with infrasonic calls that can be heard by other gators up to three miles away.
  • An adult male alligator can grow up to 16 feet long and weigh up to 1,000 pounds (Smithsonian, 2022).

Where Gators Are Found

Alligators live in freshwater swamps, bayous, marshlands, rivers and lakes. They are found in many southern states: North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas. A lot of people don’t realize alligators inhabit Oklahoma, but they are in fact native to the Gulf Coastal Plain of southeastern Oklahoma. Louisiana has the largest population of wild alligators in the world. There are more than 2 million in the state alone.

How to Keep Your Property Safe

If you plan to live in close proximity to alligators, there are a few things you can do to protect you, your family and your property.

Alligator Behavior

First, it’s important to understand a few things about alligators and their behavior. For instance, if in the daytime you see a gator lounging along the grassy water’s edge, there is no reason to panic. Alligators tend to bask in sunlight. They’re cold-blooded and rely on the environment around them to warm their bodies. Nevertheless, keep a 60-foot distance from those bathing beauties (University of Georgia).

It’s best to keep your loved ones — especially small children — away from the water’s edge, an alligator’s primary hunting ground. The semiaquatic reptile tends to hunt more often at night, but it’s better to be safe and avoid the area. Gators are excellent silent swimmers, easily mistaken for floating logs, and they tend to lunge at their prey along the shoreline.

Should you feed alligators?

Never feed the alligators or other wildlife in your area. Fishermen should refrain from leaving fish guts and bait remnants along the shoreline. Similarly, do not share your dinner scraps. Tossing anything toward gator territory will teach them to associate humans with food. They’ll lose their fear of humans and start chasing you and your neighbors down for more of those delicious scraps (University of Florida).

By the way, once a gator associates humans with food, humans become food. They cannot tell the difference. Gators that have been fed by humans pose a real threat to the community and should be reported to the local animal control center.

Eliminate the smell of food and other strong odors as much as possible from your yard. This means forgoing the outdoor grill and keeping a tight lid on your outdoor trash receptacles.

Gators in your yard

Build a Fence

The best thing you can do to ensure your family’s peace and protection when living near alligators is to build a tall fence around your entire property. With giant tails and sharp claws, gators are certainly capable of climbing fences, but they are not likely to climb over one that is at least 4 1/2 feet tall and buried 2-3 feet deep (University of Florida).

Wooden or aluminum fences are optimal materials for gator-proofing a property because the reptiles will not have anything to hold onto when attempting to climb over into your yard. While you’re at it, install electrical wiring a couple inches from the ground along the perimeter of your fence.

Swimming Pools

Wondering about your swimming pool? The last thing any homeowner wants is a 15-foot gator taking up residence in their pool, which is a real possibility if they can access it. But before you panic, keep in mind that over the past ten years Florida has averaged only 8 unprovoked bites per year, that's one in 3.1 million (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission).

Despite this, many choose to play it safe and gator-proof their pools in several ways, starting with a pool fence. It ought to be tall and solid enough to withstand the alligator’s attempt to climb or breakthrough. Then add an automatic pool cover, one that fits snugly over the edge and can withstand a lot of weight. (Gators have been known to charge right through netting, so make sure the enclosure is made of thick material!)

Closing Thoughts

Alligators are naturally shy of humans, but they are also territorial. If you encounter one out and about in your neck of the woods, chances are the gator is searching for new territory because he’s been ousted from his own by a more dominant gator. This is especially true during the mating season which takes place in the spring. Keep your distance of at least 60 feet and you should be fine.

We know that alligators can seem like a really scary reptile to run into, but we hope that you’ve learned some new facts and approaches for living alongside them in your community. In many instances, humans can coexist successfully with these ancient creatures.

If you’re interested in other ways to maintain and enhance your property check out all of the free resources we have to offer in Funiversity.

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