Alligators are carnivores and they will usually just eat what is right in front of them.
Typically, an alligator’s diet consists of birds, turtles, snakes, worms, small mammals, frogs, fish, etc. People are not on the menu.
Will Alligators Eat Humans?
Alligators aren’t particularly fond of eating people. There are reports of alligators attacking humans because humans get too close to them but there are very few reports of alligators actually eating people.
Let’s keep in mind that there are an estimated 5 million alligators in the South and almost no reports of them eating a person.
Most alligator attacks end with the human body still intact. (I know. This isn’t a pleasant topic, but you asked!)
Let’s take a look at the alligator attacks that have been reported recently.
Alligator Attacks in 2021
In 2021 there was only one report of an alligator killing a human. The attack happened in the flood waters of Hurricane Ida.
The St. Tammany Sheriff’s Office said the man’s wife heard a commotion outside and saw the alligator attacking her 71-year-old husband, according to NBC affiliate WDSU. She helped pull him on to some steps and out of the flood waters. But after going to grab some medical supplies and call for help, he was no longer there. (source)
A 12-foot-long alligator that was believed to have attacked the man was captured and killed. Sadly, human remains were found in its stomach.
Although Louisiana, like Florida, has approximately 1.5 million alligators, this may have been the first fatal alligator attack in the state since 1774 during the Spanish colonial period before statehood. (source)
Alligator Attacks in 2020
There was only one report of an alligator killing a person in 2020 and there was no evidence that the alligator ate the person.
Unfortunately, a woman was pulled under and drowned by an alligator.
She was behind a home near a pond when the attack happened. Apparently, the woman tried to touch the alligator and that’s when it grabbed her and pulled her into the water.
Her body was later recovered.
Covert was the third person killed by an alligator in South Carolina in the past four years. Before those attacks, South Carolina had never recorded a person killed by an alligator. (source)
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So, Do Alligators Eat People?
Given the number of alligators that are in the southern United States and the number of reported attacks, I think we can safely say that alligators do not actively seek to hunt and eat people.
The few attacks that were reported were under extreme circumstances. Hurricanes displace wildlife and that can causes them to do things out of the norm. Also, sometimes people get too close to an alligator and the animal reacts to its instincts. It defends itself.
The important thing to remember here is that we all need to give wildlife the space they require. Don’t try to touch an alligator and don’t get close just for a photo op. Alligators are dangerous animals and they need to be treated with respect.
Keep in mind that alligators can run and you need to keep your distance!