Alligators have been known to eat humans, but they don’t actively hunt humans and it’s extremely rare. Over the last 50 years, there have only been 21 recorded fatal alligator attacks worldwide.
Alligators are afraid of human beings. However, they will attack if they feel threatened or if they are really hungry and there is a scarcity of food. Sometimes, they will also chase humans who encroach on their territories.
Can an Alligator Kill a Human?
An alligator can kill a human, although it’s unlikely. Alligators are powerful animals with a bite force that can reach 3,000 PSI. An alligator can also run fast at 35 miles per hour.
Killing a human being, especially in water, is easy. However, alligators rarely attack, which is why it is not a common occurrence. Human beings have also learned to respect alligator territory and stay away from them. Or they keep a safe distance.
When alligators kill their prey, they bite and clamp their jaws shut and perform one of the following actions:
- Drown the human – The alligator will drag its prey below the water to drown it.
- Do the death roll – The alligator will roll several times, either on land or water.
- Do the thrashing – The alligator will thrash its head from side to side.
Alligators, like crocodiles, use their sharp teeth for hunting prey. Their jaws are their predominant tool. They have enough muscle power in their jaws to crack a turtle’s shell. Couple that with a powerful body, and the alligator is the apex predator in its environment.
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How Many People are Killed by Alligators Each Year?
There are several cases, but again, these are rare. There is no single consensus on the average attacks. Some people say that a person is more likely to get attacked by an alligator during a hurricane.
This claim is not valid. A study shows that the likelihood of dying from alligator attacks during a hurricane is only one in thousands.
There is a list of alligator attacks about fatal cases that have been thoroughly documented. Below is a snapshot for each decade.
- 1970s – 4
- 1980s – 4
- 1990s – 3
- 2010s – 8
- 2020s – 2
As one can see from this report, fatal attacks are rare. And even if the attacks led to death, it is also rare for alligators to eat the human remains.
The most recent case of a fatal alligator attack was Timothy Satterlee. He was an old man aged 71 when the attack happened.
The incident occurred in Louisiana in the floodwaters following Hurricane Ida. The victim’s wife saw it and said that the alligator bit the man’s hand off. Later on, some people captured a 12-foot-long gator, and they believed that it was the same gator that attacked Timothy.
They found human remains in the alligator’s stomach, confirming that it was attacking people. It was the first fatal attack in the state since 1774.
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Why do Alligators not like Humans?
Although alligators have the power to attack humans, they don’t because they are opportunistic predators. It means that they only want to attack easy prey and have learned that humans are a threat to them.
Humans are difficult prey. Humans can spot alligators and run. Human fatalities due to alligator attacks happen to the elderly and children in many cases. Some humans are also careless, toying around alligator habitats.
A vast majority of alligators, especially in Florida, are wary of human beings. They are like this because humans have hunted them down.
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Can an Alligator eat a Whole Body?
An alligator does not have the stomach capacity to consume an entire body. In North America, the average weight of a human being is around 80 kilograms (175lbs). An adult alligator can only eat up to around 17 kilograms in a single meal, after which it does not have to eat again for a week.
Even if the victim is a child, an alligator does not have the tummy to eat an entire human body. As such, stories where an alligator ate an entire human are all hoaxes. If anything, many alligators shared the victim, or some fishes also ate the body.
Crocodiles, however, are a different story. If they have the opportunity, they will gorge themselves and eat up to 30% of their body weight.
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Can an Alligator Digest Bones?
An alligator can digest anything organic, including muscle, cartilage, and even bones. Of course, they cannot digest rocks that they swallow or metal and plastic.
It is easy for alligators to digest human bones. For one, the digestive process begins at the mouth. An alligator has 80 teeth, and it uses these teeth to crush the bones before swallowing them.
Alligators also have a unique digestive system. After a big meal, the alligator diverts blood that is rich in carbon dioxide to the digestive system. What happens next is that there is a boost in the production of gastric acid.
It is this acid that has the power to digest the bones. Also, if the alligator does not digest its food quickly, it can die.
Summary: Do Alligators Eat Humans
Alligators attack humans, but only on rare occasions. Most of the time, they attack if they are under stress, threatened, or if there is a significant shortage of food in the environment.
When alligators do attack humans, they usually attack the careless and the vulnerable, like the elderly and children. There are reports of alligators attacking humans, the most of which was in the 2010s when there were eight fatal cases.
Stuart is the editor of Fauna Facts. He edits our writers’ work as well as contributing his own content. Stuart is passionate about sustainable farming and animal welfare and has written extensively on cows and geese for the site.