Living in Florida requires sharing our home with a very large and unique reptile—the alligator. Many are frightened by this giant due to stories and preconceived notions passed on for generations.
You have most likely heard certain misinterpretations of gators and their behavior. That’s why, today, we’ve compiled 5 of the most popular myths about alligators. Read on to uncover the truth behind these myths and get to know this unique Florida resident on a deeper level.
Myth #1: Alligators are Out to Get Us
According to Gator Bill Robb, a retired trapper who has worked with gators for more than 30 years, Floridians should be more scared of spiders, mosquitos, and snakes than alligators. That’s right! This is due to the high rate of disease and illness passed on each year by spiders, mosquitos and snakes. It is much more likely you will have a run-in with one of these critters than an aggressive alligator.
In fact, gators are naturally scared of humans. When faced with a human in the wild, an alligator is much more likely to fled the area than become aggressive. Now, this does not mean humans should not be cautious around gators. Feeding them will encourage the alligator to interact and will often result in an attack. This is why it’s wise to observe alligators from the safety of an Orlando airboat tour. Aboard our safe airboat ride, you and your family will have the opportunity to get close to these unique reptiles while staying safe and out of harm’s way. As you enjoy your airboat tour of Lake Jesup, it’s important that you follow safety rules and as a result, you will enjoy a fun-filled gator adventure!
Myth #2: Run Away in a Zigzag Pattern
It is a common Floridian belief that running away from an alligator in a zig zag pattern will result in slowing down the animal as it is unable to quickly change direction. However, if you run away in this back and forth pattern, you are actually shortening the distance between you and the gator. They may be able to get to you quicker if any delay in your retreat occurs.
A more practical method to escaping an aggressive gator is to raise your hands in the air and try to make yourself appear as big as possible as you back away from the animal. Often doing this will result in the alligator retreating. If the gator does not retreat, back away a couple steps and then run as fast as you can in one straight direction.
Myth #3: Alligators Have Bad Eyesight
Due to an alligator’s head shape and the position of their eyes, many have been told to believe that gators have bad eyesight. This could not be further from the truth. In fact, the alligator’s eyes, positioned on either side of their head, actually gives them a very wide view. Therefore, gators can lock in on their prey from very far distances.
Their eyes are also equipped for ultimate dusk vision. Inside of their eye, beneath their photoreceptor cells, is a layer of cells called the tapetum lucidum. This allows their retina to reflect light back into the cells, which increases the amount of light that the gator can detect. This unique ability, similar to that of an owl, helps the alligator see well in low-light conditions.
Myth #4: Alligators Can’t Climb
Perhaps you’ve heard that alligators can’t climb? If you’ve ever been told to simply jump a fence or climb a tree when attempting to escape an alligator, you have not been given very helpful advice. Due to their high muscle content, sharp claws and powerful tails, gators, especially young ones, are actually quite agile climbers. Using their tail, which is half of their body’s length, alligators can push themselves over a fence or wall in a mad scramble. While hopping a fence may buy you some time, don’t expect to get away that easily. After all, they are distant relatives to the lizard which are excellent climbers.
Myth #5: Alligators and Crocodiles are the Same
If you’re visiting Florida for the first time, you may not be aware that alligators are quite a different species than their reptile relative, the crocodile. While there are physical similarities, they are very different animals. First of all, crocodiles are found to live in saltwater habitats while alligators hang around in freshwater marshes and lakes, like Lake Jesup. Physically, crocodiles are a bit more frightening to the eye. Larger in size, these animals have a v-shaped snout while the smaller alligator has a wider, u-shaped snout. A crocodile’s toothy grin can be seen at all times, even when their mouths are shut. The fourth tooth on either side of their jaw protrudes over their upper lip. Scary, right? Our friend, the alligator’s teeth are hidden completely when their mouths are shut.
You most likely are not going to spot a crocodile during your visit to Central Florida, however they have been spotted in the southernmost tip of the state. Alligators are much more common and can be found across the entire state of Florida.
Now that you know the truth behind these incredible creatures, are you ready to see one for yourself? Get an up-close look with the added safety of a Central Florida airboat ride at The Black Hammock! Here, you can spot alligators in their natural habitat while riding along Lake Jesup on a classic Florida airboat. You will also have the chance to meet our resident show alligators up-close! Ready to embark on your Florida wildlife adventure? Book an airboat tour with us today!