Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Officials are still searching for the body of a 2-year-old Nebraska boy who was dragged into the water by an alligator Tuesday night at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa in Bay Lake, Florida.
The toddler was “playing” in the water at Disney’s Seven Seas Lagoon around 9 p.m. when the alligator attacked, officials said. The reptile is estimated to be between 4 and 7 feet-long.
Florida is teeming with more than a million gators, but only a dozen or so bites are recorded each year, according to statistics from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Fatal alligator attacks are rare.
To avoid an encounter with a gator, wildlife experts said people must never feed them — it’s dangerous and also illegal in the state of Florida. Families should also steer clear of waterways at nighttime, when an alligator can’t decipher the difference between a small child and its normal food source. People must be especially vigilant during nesting season, which lasts through July.
“It’s rare that an alligator will come out of the water and go after a human being,” Ron Magill, a wildlife expert and communications director at Zoo Miami, said on ABC News’ Good Morning America Wednesday. “They usually nest close to the water. If you get near a nest, a female will come after you. Females are very protective.”
In the unusual event that you do find yourself squaring off with a gator, wildlife experts suggest these four tips:
If you happen to lock eyes with an alligator on land, forget running in a zigzag. Run away as fast as you can in a straight line. Alligators will typically only chase a human to defend their territory.
“The longer you stay within their territory, the longer they’re going to chase you,” Frank Mazziotti, professor of wildlife ecology at the University of Florida’s Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center, told ABC News Wednesday. “When you run back and forth, you are in fact exposing yourself to attack for a longer period of time then if you just ran in a straight direction and got out of there. Once you’re not longer a threat, it has no interest in you.”
If a gator does grab hold of you, there are a few things you can do. Most importantly, don’t give up.
“Fight like hell. Don’t go willingly,” Mazziotti said. “The bigger fight you put up, the more likely it’s going to let you go and say, ‘This isn’t worth it.'”
Smack the snout
Rather than trying to open a gator’s jaws, which are extremely powerful, aim for where the animal is most vulnerable, like its snout.
“Pop them on the snout. The tip of their snout is very sensitive. That might be able to get them to release you,” Magill said.
Gouge the eyes
Jabbing a gator in the eyes may also make it release its bite, even for just a brief moment, allowing you to get away before it pulls you under.
“The thing you want to stop them from doing is turning. They’ll grab and they’ll start rolling to try to break off pieces to eat and that’s the key thing,” Magill said on GMA. “You’ve got to hold on as hard as you can. And the other is to try to poke your fingers in their eyes. That’s easier said than done in that situation of course, but that’s the best chance you have.”
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