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Dec. 3, 2022

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Will storm raise chances of alligator attacks?

Not likely, biologists say, though critters do move around

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COLUMBIA, S.C. — Hurricane Ian slammed into Florida on Wednesday and then headed toward South Carolina, bringing with it heavy rains and potential flooding — and possibly alligators.

The scaly critters have been known to show up in spots they wouldn’t otherwise visit because of hurricane flooding. Thanks to smartphones, alligator sightings have been plentiful after hurricanes in recent years. In 2018, for instance, a gator was spotted swimming in a flooded dog park in Myrtle Beach after Hurricane Florence.

And with sightings of alligators where they’re not supposed to be comes the fear of an attack.

With another hurricane barreling toward South Carolina, what are the chances of an alligator attacking someone during or after a big storm? For that matter, what about under normal circumstances?

Not likely in both cases, according to a report by University of Florida researchers.

Composed by a team of biologists, the report states that unprovoked alligator attacks on humans are rare.

“An unprovoked attack happens when an alligator makes first contact with a human, whereas a provoked attack happens when the human voluntarily makes contact with or disturbs an alligator in some way,” it states. “There is no evidence to suggest that unprovoked alligator attacks will increase during a hurricane.”

The report states that researchers in Florida who have observed alligator behavior during storms have not found any evidence of them actively hunting or seeking out prey during hurricanes.

“While alligators are heavily armored, they are equipped with highly sensitive receptors that can detect changes in pressure. If a hurricane is moving in, they are likely preparing to hunker down,” the report states.

Still, it is more likely that alligators will move around after a hurricane and show up in unexpected places, the report adds.

Unprovoked alligator attacks do happen. However, most are preventable, and the fatality rate is low.

“Roughly 4% of alligator attacks on humans in the United States have resulted in death, a majority of which occurred in Florida,” the report states.

“Most alligator attacks are characterized by a single bite and immediate release,” the report adds. “Few attacks can be attributed to territorial alligators or nest defense.”

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