Adverse encounters with alligators in the United States: an update

Wilderness Environ Med. 2010 Jun;21(2):156-63. doi: 10.1016/j.wem.2010.02.002. Epub 2010 Feb 13.


Objective: Severe injuries and fatalities can occur from an alligator attack. Encounters with alligators appear to be increasing in the United States. This review provides information from alligator attacks reported in the United States as well as infections that may occur after an alligator bite.

Methods: Telephone interviews were conducted with state wildlife offices in all Southern states in order to collect information on the number of alligator bites, nuisance calls, and the estimated alligator population of each state. Detailed information from alligator attacks in Florida is presented, including basic demographic information on the victims and description of the types of injuries and the activity of the victim at the time of injury. Additional information regarding the size and behavior of the alligator involved in the attack is also provided in many cases.

Results: There have been 567 reports of adverse encounters with alligators with 24 deaths reported in the United States from 1928 to January 1, 2009. In addition, thousands of nuisance calls are made yearly and the number of nuisance calls as well as the alligator population is increasing in many states.

Conclusions: Injuries from encounters with alligators may range from minor scratches and punctures to amputations and death. The larger the alligator, the more likely that serious injury will occur. As the human population encroaches on the habitat of the alligator, attacks and nuisance complaints will continue to occur. A uniform reporting system among states should be developed to obtain more complete information on alligator encounters. Guidelines have been developed by many state wildlife officials to reduce adverse encounters with alligators.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alligators and Crocodiles* / anatomy & histology
  • Amputation, Traumatic / pathology
  • Animals
  • Arm Injuries / pathology
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Bites and Stings / complications
  • Bites and Stings / epidemiology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leg Injuries / pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Population Density
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Wound Infection / epidemiology*
  • Wound Infection / etiology
  • Young Adult