Reports of a Florida alligator dragging a 2-year-old boy into a lagoon at a Disney Resort in June 2016 have left media organizations and the public questioning how such a tragedy could have occurred. Meanwhile, state wildlife officials and animal experts have tried to explain the habits and characteristics of these large, predatory creatures to help audiences understand both the rarity of such an encounter and the dangers of humans being in or near gator habitats at night and during the summer, when alligators are more active.
A 2014 primer from the University of Florida provides a research-based overview of alligator behavior and outlines safety-related information. Academic research can also help put attacks and related incidents into a broader context. A 2005 study published in the journal Wilderness and Environmental Medicine, “Alligator Attacks on Humans in the United States,” reviews data gathered from state wildlife offices and newspaper reports from 1948 to 2004. The author, Ricky L. Langley of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, notes the following about the nature of attacks: