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What You Need to Know About Alligators Before Hiking or Paddling in Florida


Sadly, you can’t visit Jurassic Park. But if you dream of seeing huge reptiles, you can visit Florida, and that’s a close second. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) estimates there are 1.3 million alligators in the state, spanning all of its 67 counties. Spend enough time hiking or paddling there, and you’re guaranteed to see a few. If you’re not the kind of person who wishes to see a velociraptor in real life, however, that probably sounds like less of a dream and more of a nightmare.

Alligators are certainly intimidating. They’re huge, with mature males averaging about 11 feet long and 500 pounds in weight, have powerful jaws lined with 80 sharp teeth, and swallow their food—fish, snakes, turtles, and small mammals—whole. In theory, they could hurt a human if they wanted to, and on rare occasions, they do. (Ask Jeffrey Heim, who suffered a severe head wound after a gator bit him in Florida’s Myakka River, and later told his story on our Out Alive podcast.) 

The good news? Alligators don’t view humans as food, and attacks are exceedingly rare. According to the FWC, there were 442 unprovoked alligator bite incidents between 1948 and 2021, an average of about six a year….

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