Alligators are large predators that primarily live in and around water, but have also been observed walking long distances across land. Alligators are typically not aggressive to humans according to alligator experts. Today, I will explain how fast an alligator can run.
On average, an alligator can run 30 mph (50 km/h), according to expert alligator handlers and people who have observed a lot of alligators in the wild. But, only over a distance of 2 to 3 yards (2 to 3 meters) to catch prey or run away. When traveling over land alligators walk at a very slow pace.
Alligators have two primary ways of walking and running according to the Encyclopedia Britannica. Below, I will explain how alligators run so you can know what you’re in for if you are surprised by an alligator in the wild.
How Alligators Run and How They Go After Prey
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Alligators are found in the southeast of the United States, where there are abundant marshes and wetlands. Alligators are the most at home in the water, and only leave the water to travel to another wetland area, to sun themselves, or to nest.
According, to Christopher Gillette of Florida’s Wildest, and wildlife biologist who does swim with alligator tours, alligators don’t run more than 35 mph (56 km/h).
But, he says in all of his experience working with and observing alligators he has never seen one run that fast. Here’s a video where he explains it:
He says the only way that could happen is if an alligator is running down a muddy hill. For example, if they are fleeing into the water. Below, is a video showing an alligator running on land, at what looks like as fast as it can go. You can see it cover a distance of 30 feet (10 meters) in roughly 6 seconds. This means its speed is 3.4 mph (5.5 km/h).
Here’s a quote from someone who worked alongside alligators for a few years, and observed a lot of them in the wild:
“I worked in the marshes of Southern Texas and Louisiana for a few years and alligators can move and run faster than people for a very short time and distance. By that I mean they can lunge and turn very quickly and can burst out towards you very quickly and unexpectedly, but after a few yards on land, they tire quickly.” – Chris Coleman, Geophysics Technician.
He goes on to state that they have an advantage in marshy areas where it’s very difficult for a human to run. The main thing to be aware of is, if an alligator surprises a person and decides to make a dash at them, it can easily catch them if they are within about 10 feet (3 meters away).
Therefore, if you see an alligator on land you should go no closer than about 30 feet to be on the safe side (10 meters).
Different ways that alligators will run
According to Encyclopedia Britannica, alligators walk in two ways. They either 1) sprawl or 2) high walk. A high walk is where they walk on their feet and hands with their abdomen far off the ground.
Whereas, a sprawl is where they keep their body on the ground and push themselves forward making their tummy slide along the ground. They most commonly sprawl in muddy and marsh areas where they half swim, half walk/run.
Alligators have also been known to balance on their hind legs. But, they are unable to walk or run in this way. They only do this when they are jumping up to catch prey if they happen to be on land when a bird flies overhead. Or, if they are being fed in captivity.
If an alligator is on dry land like grass or hard mud they will typically lay flat on the ground, and then dash in a high walk and sprawl combination.
Whereas, if they are moving across land they will almost always walk at a very slow pace. For example, if they are going from one lake/pond to another that is some distance away. They don’t have the stamina to sustain a fast or slow run.
The reason is alligators have extremely short legs relative to their body, therefore, it’s very difficult for them to support their body weight when running on land.
How Fast Can an Alligator Run a Mile
Alligators primarily live in wetlands and prefer not to travel across land. They are much slower on land compared to in the water. But, how fast can an alligator run a mile on land?
On average, an alligator will take 20 minutes to run a mile. Alligators can only run very fast for 2 to 3 yards (2 to 3 meters) before they tire. Alligators traveling across land are virtually always observed walking at a slow pace of about 3 mph (5 km/h).
They will only make a dash if they are running towards or away from something. For example, if they are spooked and are running towards the water, are scaring off other alligators from their territory, or are dashing out of the water to catch an unsuspecting animal.
Can a Human Outswim an Alligator
A human that’s a strong swimmer can swim fairly fast. But, alligators are also extremely good swimmers. So, who’s faster at swimming a human or an alligator, and can a human outswim an alligator?
As a general rule, a human can not outswim an alligator. Alligators swim as fast as 20 mph (32.18 km/h), whereas, a typical person can only swim 2 mph (3 km/h). Alligators have webbed feet and propel themselves by moving their large tail from side to side, allowing them to reach very high speeds.
In general, if you’re in an area known for alligators it’s best to avoid swimming at all. Most areas that are known for alligators are clearly signposted, and if in doubt don’t swim. Alligator experts say that most alligator attacks occur where a person gets into the water, without knowing that alligators are there.