Wildlife viewing is one of the most exciting aspects of kayaking. A great and common example for this kind of experience is kayaking with alligators. While they are fearsome creatures, you can still safely paddle near them.
So, can you kayak with alligators? Yes, you can kayak with alligators and there are many gator-friendly locations where you can even book tours for that. The most important thing is to take some safety measures and remember not to feed the alligators because that’s what makes them dangerous.
Keep reading to learn more about how alligators behave, how to tell when they’re aggressive, and what to do if you encounter an alligator.
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Kayaking With Alligators – A Guide
Generally, kayaking with alligators can be a very safe activity. Most of the time the alligators you pass by want nothing to do with you. So, maintaining your distance will lower any chance of an encounter.
Alligators do not normally think of humans as a food source. However, if an alligator gets fed by humans, they will start to associate humans with meals. That’s when alligators can be a real danger to kayakers.
While alligators can be reserved and docile, they’re still very dangerous predators. Having a basic understanding of their behavior and taking precautions is still very crucial to remain safe.
How Do Alligators Typically Behave?
Alligators are the reserved kind of predator. They will remain submerged under the surface for hours – with only their snout resurfacing periodically for air – waiting for prey to come near. They tend to be reclusive, some might even view them as lazy or docile.
When it comes to their diet, adult alligators typically feed on fish, snakes, turtles, small mammals, and birds.
Alligators are cold blooded which is why they are the most active between dusk and dawn. However, they don’t move much during the daytime. They usually prefer to spend the daytime hanging out near the shore and basking in the sun.
If you’re on a wider river, it’s common to see several alligators on the shore. While on narrower streams, alligators are more likely to slip back into the water and disappear if they recognize a kayak approaching.
During the spring, when the weather is warmer and the temperatures are high, alligators will be more likely to display some aggressive behavior. That’s when the chances of an alligator attacking a kayaker tend to significantly increase.
There are two main reasons why their behavior changes during that time:
- Mating Season – April is the start of alligator mating season, which normally lasts up to May or June. During that time male alligators become more active, aggressive, and highly territorial.
- Mother Alligators – Female alligators build their nest in sheltered areas near the water then guard it throughout the incubation period and for two years after the eggs hatch. Mother alligators will become aggressive if they see anyone attempting to approach or handle their eggs or babies. They will not hesitate to attack if they sense a threat to their young.
Can You Go Kayak Fishing Near Alligators?
You can go fishing near alligators. However, you might face some problems with alligators showing up as soon as you start landing your fish.
Reeling the fish too fast can cause too much noise which attracts alligators. There’s also the issue of alligators stealing your catch if they have a chance.
What you can do to overcome these problems is to keep your rod tip pointed close to the water and try to reel in your fish slowly so you wouldn’t make any commotion that will make the alligators aware that you’re landing fish.
You also need to be very careful when releasing a fish back into the water. Make sure to do it as quickly as possible, as an alligator could be waiting below the surface of the water ready to snatch it out of your hand.
Now let’s look at the precautions you need to take to remain safe while kayaking near alligators.
Safety Tips for Kayaking Near Alligators
- Don’t kayak near gator territory
If you want to completely eliminate the risk of encountering an alligator just stick to paddling locations where gators don’t live
Most of the U.S. isn’t inhabited by alligators, so you’ll still have a lot of beautiful kayaking destinations to choose from.
- Never feed alligators
This is the most important thing to remember. There’s a good reason why it is actually illegal.
As mentioned before, alligators will start associating humans who feed them with meals. The main problem here is that it could lead to having deadly predators like alligators, unafraid of approaching humans.
Most of the reports of alligators attacks on kayakers have been the result of a kayaker trying to feed a gator.
- Don’t make them feel cornered
A party of multiple kayakers might resemble a hunting party in the eyes of the alligators lying on the banks of the lake or river where you’re paddling on.
It’s good to have at least 15-20 feet between each of your kayaks and to travel in a straight line.
Avoid having multiple kayaks pointing at or approaching a group of gators from multiple angles at the same time. This could make them feel as if they are being cornered or under some kind of threat which will quickly lead them to become aggressive.
- Remain at a respectful distance
Generally, try to keep your kayak at least 20 yards away from the nearest gator you can see. This will lower the risk of any gators feeling threatened by your presence.
You need to respect the gator’s territory and remember that this is their home and you’re just vesting.
- Don’t bring your pet along
Some of the reports of alligator attacks on kayaks have been directly linked to the presence of a pet on board.
That is because pets emit a different odor than humans, and it appears that this odor is very attractive to alligators.
- Don’t paddle near gator territory during their mating season
Almost all animals are more aggressive and protective of their territory during mating season. So, it’s always to avoid them during this time of the year.
When it comes to American alligators, mating season usually begins in April and can take up to May or June. If you’re paddling in any location other than America, it’s recommended to do your research about alligator mating season for the region you are in.
- Look out for any sign that the alligator is agitated
Alligators will make a warning sound when they feel threatened. It is more common among females that are protecting their nests. This sound is most accurately described as a hiss.
- Take a whistle or an air horn with you
It’s recommended to carry an item that will be able to make a loud noise to scare off an alligator if it’s getting too close to your kayak.
If you don’t have a whistle or an air horn, you can slap the water with your paddle and use your own voice to make loud noises.
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Do Alligators Attack Kayaks?
Yes, alligators do happen to attack kayaks However, it’s a very rare occurrence and it’s almost never unprovoked. Alligators are likely to attack you if they’re feeling agitated or threatened.
If you ignore all the safety precautions and fail to recognize the warning signs that indicate that an alligator is angry, you’ll definitely be putting yourself in danger.
What Are the Warning Signs You Must Watch Out for?
When an alligator feels threatened, their first action to defend themselves would be going back into the water. Unfortunately, in some cases, they will not retreat and instead, they’ll show signs of aggression.
It’s important to be able to recognize these warning signs when you come across an alligator.
Here are some examples of alligator behaviors that you shouldn’t ignore:
- Emitting a sound like hissing or growling
- Opening their mouth wide and snapping their jaws
- Wagging their tail
- Turning their head or body and swimming toward you
- Puffing up and down in the water. You will notice that their belly is getting larger and their back will be rising up out of the water.
If you happen to notice any of these signs when approaching an alligator, take it as a warning and immediately retreat.
What to Do If an Alligator Approaches Your Kayak?
The most important thing is not to panic and try to get back to shore.
Paddle smoothly away as quickly as you can, but try to keep your strokes smooth and not frantic. You can also make some noise to scare them away using a whistle or an air horn.
If an alligator tries to lunge at the kayak to bite you, use your paddle as a weapon and swing it while aiming for their snout.
Where Can You Kayak with Alligators?
Now that you have all this information about remaining safe while kayaking with alligators, you might actually be interested in taking a trip.
Here’s a list of popular kayaking locations where alligators live:
The Best 6 Gator-Friendly Kayaking Locations to Check Out
Everglades National Park
It’s a 1.5-million-acre preserve that is home to American alligators and the rare and endangered American crocodiles.
It’s the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States, it’s definitely a gator-friendly spot if you plan to get out on the water in your kayak.
Congaree National Park
It’s one of the United States’ less popular national parks, located in South Carolina, and very much in alligator territory.
It’s located in West Texas which may seem like an unlikely spot for American alligators and kayaking. However, it is still within alligator territory and it can be a great experience to paddle through trails in the piney woods of Texas.
Wakulla River Paddling Trail
It’s a 10-mile trail located in North Florida. It’s known to be filled with wildlife, like manatees, wading birds, alligators, turtles, and plenty of fish.
Atchafalaya Basin Swamp
It’s located in New Orleans and attracts a lot of visitors every year for many reasons other than kayaking. It’s known to be a habitat for American alligators.
Potano Paddling Trail
It’s located near Gainesville. It provides a circumnavigation option and a more technical paddle of Prairie Creek.
If you are going fishing, make sure to get your fishing license first. Getting a fishing license is easy, and it will cost you much less than the fine you’re going to pay if you fish without a license. You can find out where and how to get your fishing license in every state here.
What’s The Difference Between Alligators and Crocodiles?
The main difference between alligators and crocodiles is the shape of their snout. Alligators have a wider rounded snout, while crocodiles have a longer pointed snout. Another difference is their behavior. Crocodiles can be more aggressive than alligators and also more dangerous.
Do Crocodiles Attack Kayaks?
Yes, crocodiles do attack kayaks because they are known for being very aggressive. It’s important to know how to avoid being too close to them in the water and what to do if they approach your kayak.
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