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Gators and kids

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I've paddled in the south since a young man, including many places with gators. I mostly enjoy it. But I've found them more aggressive than black bears.

I now paddle with my kids, and I'm reluctant to take them places with lots of gators. So far we've stuck to places like the Great Dismal Swamp where there are few, if any, gators.

I've had some encounters as a young man I don't think I'd want to repeat with my children. I had a mama gator run me out of a creek in the Santee delta of South Carolina. I encountered another gator in Wambaw Creek who was honestly bigger than my 14 ft canoe and positioned himself for an ambush.

But I would like to show them places like Three Sisters Swamp, Winyah Bay, the Congaree River and Sparkleberry, and even the Santee delta.

Any thoughts? Can anyone convince me I'm paranoid? Or am I doing the right thing staying away from places with lots of gators.
 

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As long as the kids stay in the boat I don't see a problem. I wouldn't have taken my Grandkids camping on Cape Sable in the Everglades when they were small. There are crocodiles there, not gators, but both are opportunistic feeders that have been known to eat people.
 
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Evidence says don't worry about it but be aware and mindful.
https://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/archive/hot_topics/environment/alligator_safety.shtml
https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/how-to-survive-alligator-attack/index.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fatal_alligator_attacks_in_the_United_States

There are about 10 unprovoked alligator attacks on people in Florida each year for the past decade. These alligator attacks resulted in about 6 deaths over 10 years. For context there are on average 7 deaths per year from lighting strikes in Florida each year.
 
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Yeah, that isn't reassuring. Adults are too big, but kids are in their prey range. This agrees with what I've heard from people who live in the lowcountry, including one person who saw a retriever get eaten.

Also this, ""Education is key to avoiding a bad encounter, Andrews said. Start with knowing when gators are most active.
Courtship season starts as spring warms up; mating extends in early summer; and in Okefenokee Swamp in southeastern Georgia, "we start to see eggs hatch out starting in September and October. ... And that's when the females are most protective when they feel someone is threatening their babies," Andrews said.
Your best season is winter: If it's cold, "they're not doing whole lot.""

So basically stay out of the swamps except for the middle of winter and maybe the middle of summer? I do not want to go canoe tripping along the Congaree River in middle of summer time.
 
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Evidence says don't worry about it but be aware and mindful.
https://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/archive/hot_topics/environment/alligator_safety.shtml
https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/how-to-survive-alligator-attack/index.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fatal_alligator_attacks_in_the_United_States

There are about 10 unprovoked alligator attacks on people in Florida each year for the past decade. These alligator attacks resulted in about 6 deaths over 10 years. For context there are on average 7 deaths per year from lighting strikes in Florida each year.
I don't know about numbers but that one little 3 year old that got killed at Disney World a few years ago is enough for me.
 
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This happened in Florida. Luckily it grew back and I was able to finish the trip.😉 seriously though I did walk into a crocodile in the murky water of Florida bay. I thought I hit a log but it soon disappeared. F61E73B8-5683-47E7-9176-58E9CDB71034.jpeg
 

Glenn MacGrady

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It's pretty hard to find gator-less water bodies in the South. I've paddled there on and off for 50 years, and have always found gators to flee away when they see my canoe. With one exception, below.

Generally, I've found that I have to be careful about surprising them. They usually rest on sunny spots on the shore or logs. So, I stay away from those spots. I especially avoid being close to the shore on the inside turn of a river because you can't see a gator that may be sunning right around the corner.

The exception to fleeing was when I must have surprised a submerged gator while quietly gliding right over him in a shallow lake in Florida in my Hawaiian outrigger canoe. There was a big thump under the rear of my 22' cigar-shaped hull, not a place that a submerged log would hit. The hull was punctured by a row of small holes and I sank in the middle of the lake. My surmise is that the surprised gator either instinctively bit at the hull or whomped it with its spiked head or tail as it thrashed to get away from me.

I don't personally have concern that prevents me from paddling solo in gator waters. My concern would be ratcheted much higher with small children. I did take my kids out a few times in Florida when they were about 15, 12 and 7, and we were careful.
 
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In my opinion, you're not overly paranoid. Admittedly, it probably has a lot to do with familiarity but I've never been too worried about bears. Those big reptiles, however, are cause for concern and they fascinate me while, at the same time, giving me the creeps.

In your TR, you indicated that your kids are elementary school-aged. Like everything else (and like any other animal), you need to be more aware and more protective when they're young and a little "paranoid" is probably healthy. They'll get bigger and you've (hopefully) got time.
 
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I once paddled on the St John's River west of the Space Coast. The first alligators I startled were small. The dove off the bank and stayed under, startling me too. The bigger ones after just sauntered into the river and swam with their eyes at the surface watching me. I have a theory that if animals fear me, I don't have to fear them. Those big gators seemed more curious than afraid. As I was alone, I paddled on.
Are they less common in brackish waters?
 
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I spend a month paddling in Florida and have paddled the Congaree and a bit of Sparkleberry.. I am wary of bends in the river. Never surprise a gator. One went over the bow of my canoe on the Hillsborough . Almost. His tail landed in the canoe in the bow.. It followed him rapidly leaving and there was no upset.. I have paddled over gators in Louisiana in Cane Bayou.. bump.. oh not a log. I got chased by a male gator in the Everglades and it was again a surprise to him to have me emerge 20 feet from him.. Plus it was mating season.. They are not friendly in March in the Everglades.
Last year we paddled lakes near Ocklawaha FL and one gator was not in a good mood. We were some 100 feet away and instead of just sliding into the water he high stepped into the water and swam aggressively toward us with a lot of splash. It was a bluff charge for maybe 40 feet.
I don't personally have any concern but small children are awfully prey size. Gators eat only once every couple of weeks but who can tell a hungry gator from a satiated gator? This was taken from dry land.. Gator was busy at lunch
 

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I spend a month paddling in Florida and have paddled the Congaree and a bit of Sparkleberry.. I am wary of bends in the river. Never surprise a gator. One went over the bow of my canoe on the Hillsborough . Almost. His tail landed in the canoe in the bow.. It followed him rapidly leaving and there was no upset.. I have paddled over gators in Louisiana in Cane Bayou.. bump.. oh not a log. I got chased by a male gator in the Everglades and it was again a surprise to him to have me emerge 20 feet from him.. Plus it was mating season.. They are not friendly in March in the Everglades.
Last year we paddled lakes near Ocklawaha FL and one gator was not in a good mood. We were some 100 feet away and instead of just sliding into the water he high stepped into the water and swam aggressively toward us with a lot of splash. It was a bluff charge for maybe 40 feet.
I don't personally have any concern but small children are awfully prey size. Gators eat only once every couple of weeks but who can tell a hungry gator from a satiated gator? This was taken from dry land.. Gator was busy at lunch
 
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I once paddled on the St John's River west of the Space Coast. The first alligators I startled were small. The dove off the bank and stayed under, startling me too. The bigger ones after just sauntered into the river and swam with their eyes at the surface watching me. I have a theory that if animals fear me, I don't have to fear them. Those big gators seemed more curious than afraid. As I was alone, I paddled on.
Are they less common in brackish waters?
Gators like fresh water and crocs salt water. But in the Everglades in brackish waters there still are gators..
 
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Can't speak to Sparkleberry Swamp, but 30 years living in Columbia, SC I never saw nor talked to someone who had seen a gator in the Congaree. It is very much on the edge of their range. Which isn't to say they aren't there, but their numbers are small. So I think putting the Congaree on you itinerary, along with Cedar Creek in Congaree National Park, would be good. The Wateree would also be good.
 
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