If charged by an alligator, run away
in a straight line,
It's extremely unlikely that you'll
ever be in a situation requiring you to outrun and
The alligator is not an ideal runner. Those short
legs obviously don't serve it like a horse's legs do, and the 'gator
can actually tire out in a relatively short time. When it
charges after a human or animal, it is either trying to scare it away or
seize it. It has a fast and furious burst of energy which serves it well for stealth hunting -- grabbing prey when it doesn't expect
it. Furthermore, the reptile is opportunistic, which means, quite simply, it doesn't like to work very hard to get its food if it
doesn't have to.
So, in the very rare event you are charged or chased by an
alligator, move in as straight a line as possible away from it
as fast as you reasonably can. In many cases, the vegetation features of
the wild will serve to protect you by slowing the alligator down, like
trees, bumps, bushes, etc. -- your comparatively long legs usually
make it easier for you to maneuver through the trees and brush than an
alligator's short legs do for it.
Most adult humans can outrun even a fast crocodilian,
which has been clocked at a maximum of about 10 mph/17 kph, compared to
a human speed of 15-17 mph/24-27 kph. But this doesn't matter much as
alligator will often
give up the chase because it sees that the runner is moving away
too quickly and realizes that too much effort will be required to
continue pursuit. The vertically aligned mammals with long legs
have the advantage over the tubular, horizontally-aligned,
You may have heard somewhere that the zigzag run (running in
a "z" pattern, side-to-side) is a good idea, but this is not only an
unnecessary maneuver but probably an unwise one.
Unless you're an Olympic-level athlete, running
zigzag over natural topography increases your risk of tripping
and falling over rocks, plants, roots, and the like. And it
goes without saying that falling
while being pursued by an alligator is not good.
The alligator shown at left is sounding a
hiss as a warning to the
photographer not to approach any further.
Furthermore, an alligator has limited
binocular vision, a relatively narrow functional 'blind spot'
appearing directly in front of it at close range, partly due to
its wide, long upper jaw. Hence, the 'gator's vision is most effective
in the 'sides' of its field of view. So, running zigzag not only slows your rate of
distance from your pursuer, it may
more clearly indicate to the animal exactly where you are; even this
point hardly matters since in many cases the 'gator may keep its eyes shut
while pursuing so as not to get them hit by twigs, grass stalks and
branches in its path.
Finally, an alligator bites very effectively in a
side-swiping motion, so if you are trying to run zigzag and are slowed down
by plants, rocks, or other obstacles, the backwards flying leg of a
running human is an optimal target for side-swiping, chomping jaws (the
operative word here is "side").
Simply put, when faced with an attack, move directly
away from the alligator as quickly as possible, navigating the terrain
as carefully as possible. The zigzag idea will likely not serve you well.