Swimming with alligators is not a good idea. Usually when a person is attacked by an alligator, it is because they did something foolish or was uninformed about the nature of an alligator. There is the occasional odd attack, but usually alligator attacks are quite predictable. In other words, someone broke the rules and it usually is not the alligator. People like to push the envelope. That is a very bad idea when it comes to a 20 foot reptile.

Alligators can be found throughout the Southeast, and as far West as Texas. If you live anywhere that alligators inhabit the waters, then you need to follow some simple rules around water. These rules will keep you safe from alligator attacks. Here are some things to consider about alligators, and their behavior.

1. Alligators do want to eat you. With many wild animals, including sharks and bears, attacks are a result of mistaken identity most of the time. Alligators and crocodiles are different in that they see, recognize, and pursue you as a food source. They are at the top of the food chain for a reason. They are not evil, mindless beasts. They are simply seeing you like you see that juicy hamburger sitting on your plate. Remember that the next time you decide to jump in the water with one.

2. Alligators feed and are very active at dusk, dawn, and night time. These are the three times of day that you should stay far away from alligator infested waters. Do not walk the banks or swim unless you want to become alligator sushi. During the day, alligators will still attack, but at night they are actively pursuing supper, and your presence around and in the water is like a dinner bell.

3. The number one way to ensure an alligator attack on a human being is to feed an alligator. Alligators are smart, but not in a human way. They learn through repetition and recognition. If you feed an alligator, then the alligator will associate humans with food. The cycle persists until the alligator one day approaches someone in the water that has no food other than themselves. You do the math of what happens next.

4. Alligators are fiercely protective of their nest. Female alligators will actually chase threats to their nesting young. They lay these nests on the shorelines, and often people accidentally approach. This is another very dangerous situation. People do not realize that in short bursts, an alligator is faster on land than we are. If you are five feet from a nesting mother, and it decides you are a danger, you are in big trouble. (Or maybe it was just hungry)

5. Pets are another huge problem around alligator infested waters. If Fido is frolicking at the water’s edge, you may as well give him a quick goodbye. Alligators can snatch a dog in a matter of seconds and have them gone in one bite. Leave your pets at home if you want them to survive the weekend. Pets have the added problem of resembling the alligator’s more natural prey items. This also puts you at increased danger because your pets tend to stay close to you.

The conclusion to safety around the water’s edge and in the water is to know what you are dealing with. Understand that alligators view you as a source of food, and that you need to follow some simple rules to keep from ringing their dinner bell. If you keep these things in mind, then you should remain safe from the jaws of this million year old reptile.