Alligators can climb trees.
Though people who live in alligator inhabited areas have reported witnessing alligators climbing trees, there was little scientific documentation to support this fact, leaving many to believe that the practice was merely an urban legend—until now.
In a new study, published in the journal Herpetology Notes, researchers formally studied and documented the behavior. Researchers from the University of Tennessee observed the climbing behavior of four crocodile species over three continents, Australia, Africa, and North America. The study noted that older, larger crocodiles climbed only a few feet and were more often observed on outward reaching branches. Smaller crocodiles were observed climbing much higher vertically. The researchers speculate that the animals practice this behavior to bask in the sun and to survey the habitat.
Climbing Problematic for Alligators in Captivity
The climbing behaviors of alligators are well documented with alligators in captivity. In fact, there are several state regulations in place to discourage climbing for alligators held captive. For example, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission mandates that an alligator farm must have a fence, wall, or equivalent structure that is not less than six feet high and constructed of at least 11-1/2 gauge chain link or equivalent surrounding borders of ponds that contain alligators to prohibit their escape.
Climbing Problematic for Homeowners
Alligators will wander when looking for a new habitat, prey, or a mate, which can be problematic for those living in the vicinity. They are most dangerous in and around water so those living near water should discourage climbing behavior by erecting concrete or wooden bulkheads at least three feet above the watermark. Yards should be enclosed with fencing at least five feet in height with four inch mesh that is angled outward at the top.
Couple Climbs Tree to Escape Alligators
Well, at least one couple has successfully used the tree-climbing maneuver to escape hungry alligators. A Baton Rouge couple whose boat sank in alligator infested waters, swam to the safety of cypress trees in the swamp and climbed 15 feet to await help. They spent hours in the tree with alligators circling below before help arrived.
Vladimir, Dinets. “Climbing behaviour in extant crocodilians.” Herpetology Notes 7 (2013): 3-7. Herpetology Notes. Web. 1 July 2014.
North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Alligator Regulations and Associated Statutes 2012-2013
San Diego Zoo
Fox Channel 8- New Orleans
Couple Climbed 15 Foot Tree to Escape Alligators