What comes to your mind when you think about an alligator? An agile, nasty-looking, freshwater critter with massive jaw muscles and teeth, ready to clamp down anything in its path, including humans. While this is partly true, the idea that an alligator is naturally aggressive and will always attack humans is not accurate.
When it comes to how they behave, it’s not uncommon to wonder if they can be submissive or follow instructions. So, are alligators docile? Despite their scary look and perceived aggressive tendencies, alligators are highly docile. In fact, they are naturally afraid of humans. The only time an alligator would attack you is when it feels threatened or is extremely hungry.
This might come as a shocker considering the fact that alligator and crocodile attacks account for over 6 percent of fatal attacks on humans by animals in the US.
An alligator’s temperament has to do with its usual attitude, behavior, or mood.
Unlike pet reptiles such as turtles and lizards, alligators are not domesticated even though they are naturally docile and laid-back. However, they can become mean and ill-tempered in search of food or when it has to do anything with their survival.
Having said that, it’s important to mention that they are quite timid and afraid of humans, despite their intimidating looks. But they will attack if provoked or unexpectedly disturbed.
Alligator vs Crocodile Temperament
Crocodiles are said to be similar to alligators. Besides their morphology, one area where they’re different is their temperament.
While alligators attack when provoked, hungry, or in defense of their young, crocodiles are mostly likely to attack unprovoked. Also, while alligators are generally laid-back, crocodiles are very aggressive.
Are Alligators More Docile Than Crocodiles?
As earlier indicated, alligators are highly docile. They would naturally retreat when approached by a human. They only feel the need to attack when provoked or when protecting their young. Once you hear an alligator hiss, it means you are too close; it’s usually a warning for you to back off.
The same cannot be said of a crocodile. Crocodiles are naturally aggressive. They don’t need a reason to attack you! This means that when compared, alligators are more docile than crocodiles. An alligator will attack for good reason but a crocodile will attack to show dominance, even when it’s not provoked.
Are Alligators Docile When Fed?
When an animal is said to be docile, it means that it’s ready to accept instructions. This implies that it will be easy to control.
Alligators have a natural fear of humans. But when fed regularly, they begin to lose that fear and may begin to associate humans with food instead. As time goes by, it might decide to start feeding on humans.
So, feeding an alligator will not make it docile. Instead, it will make it more dangerous.
Are Alligators Docile In Winter?
Winter is that time of the year that occurs before spring, usually around December to February. Some animals hibernate during this season due to the extreme cold. For alligators, when the temperature falls below 70°F, they usually stop feeding.
Below 55°F, the alligators slow down their metabolic rate and become dormant. Even though they don’t eat, they still drink water to avoid dehydration.
During this time (winter), the alligators also go into a lethargic state called brumation. Brumation is a state of inactivity or sluggishness exhibited by reptiles during winter or extended periods of low temperature. In this state, an alligator is usually docile and is less likely to attack even when provoked.
What Are Alligators Attracted To?
Alligators are most attracted to their prey. They don’t eat all the time, but they are always attracted to potential prey. In fact, they are smart enough to distinguish between a log on the ocean and prey. But then, what do alligators prey on?
Alligators choose their prey based on size and availability. In other words, they go after the easiest prey. Some of these include frogs, fish, turtles, mammals, gar, birds, snakes, and other reptiles. The young alligators feed on smaller prey such as snails, worms, insects, crustaceans, and crabs.
These animals are often used as bait to attract alligators.
Some alligator predators include raccoons, man, otters, and hogs.
What To Do If You See An Alligator In The Water Or While Kayaking
If you see an alligator while kayaking and you hear it hiss, there’s no need to panic. Just slowly paddle away and do so calmly because you don’t want to provoke the alligator or make it feel you want to attack.
By hissing, the alligator is trying to tell you that you’re in its territory and you’re getting too close. So, it’s best to paddle away calmly so you don’t provoke it.
Similarly, if you’re in the water and you see an alligator passing by, just hold very still until it has moved a safe distance away, then get out of the water immediately. Do so calmly so as to not attract attention to yourself.
NOTE: A kayak is a small, narrow watercraft that is propelled by means of a double-bladed paddle. Hence, kayaking is simply moving over water by means of a kayak.
To summarize, alligators are highly docile. They don’t attack unprovoked. Even though they both belong to the same order as crocodiles, they are less aggressive. During winter, they go into brumation and become sluggish or dormant. They don’t feed during this period but they drink water.
Also, it is not safe for humans to feed alligators because in doing so, they begin to lose their fear and may begin to associate humans with food.
If you see an alligator in the water or while kayaking, move out of the water calmly without attracting the attention of the alligator or making it seem as though you want to attack the alligator because the alligator will feel threatened and may attack.