A Florida man recently went viral for perhaps the most egregiously ill-advised action ever filmed: feeding a sandwich to an alligator by hand while lounging in chest-deep water.
The video in question appeared on the Only in Florida Instagram page, racking up nearly 30,000 likes and even more views in just a few days. “Florida man is gonna Florida man,” they wrote in the caption.
In the footage, a man and woman sit chest-deep in a river holding what appears to be a large sandwich. Two alligators then swim toward them, the Florida man holding out his hand, in which he holds a piece of sandwich.
After feeding the alligator the sandwich, the man throws another piece at the retreating animal and its companion, who then appear to fight over the food. As the clip ends, the man splashes the water, beckoning the gator back toward him.
On its face, the footage shows two incredibly reckless individuals who could have lost a hand, leg, or even their lives in the foolish encounter. And while that is an accurate description, it’s also so much deeper than that.
Alligators, especially Florida alligators, have a horrible reputation – in large part because of situations just like this. There’s a reason sharing food with an alligator is illegal, and it’s not just because of the risk it poses to the human(s) involved.
Never Feed an Alligator, in Florida or Elsewhere
“Problem gators” don’t simply spring out of the ground, they’re created – oftentimes by people feeding them. And when an alligator becomes a problem gator, the likelihood that wildlife officials will eventually have no choice but to euthanize it skyrockets.
“Never feed an alligator,” the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission urged. “When fed, alligators can lose their natural wariness and instead learn to associate people with the availability of food. This can lead to dangerous circumstances for yourself and other people who could encounter the alligator in the future.”
Once an alligator associates humans with food, it’s far more likely to approach and attack in search of a meal. The American alligator, such as those found in Florida, can bite with 2,500 pounds-per-square inch of force. To put that into perspective, humans exert just 120 pounds of pressure per square inch with a strong bite.
In other words, should a gator decide to bite, they’re more than capable of leaving with whatever appendage they reach. If the protection of alligators does nothing to sway you from feeding one, that should. Sadly, however, the danger seems to do little to deter those brazen enough to attempt hand-feeding a wild animal.
A few years ago, a Florida man was ticketed for feeding a 10-foot alligator a bagel. Not long after, a woman faced charges for feeding a black bear watermelon and chocolate before posting the encounter to TikTok.