“Crocodiles are fearsome predators. They can grow up to 16 feet long and 1,200 pounds in weight. They are the ultimate predators,” says survivalist Bear Grylls, who has met his fair share of crocodiles over his years of adventure and survival, especially in the world’s jungles.
Bear has two main pieces of advice on how to survive a crocodile attack – the first is, don’t find yourself in the water with one. The second is, if you see one on land… run.
Where crocodiles like to hide
The first thing about surviving a crocodile attack is to avoid one. Crocodiles, alligators, and caimans can be found all over the world, in both salt and freshwater, and will eat “pretty much anything,” says Bear, who adds that they kill thousands of people every year.
“If you’re in croc country, you need to know how to avoid them, escape them, and deal with them should they attack,” says Bear in his book, How To Stay Alive.
Bear says that crocodiles like slow-moving water, which has lots of vegetation and mud, so check areas like swamps, marshes, or even ponds. A good tip is to throw rocks into water before you go to wash or fill up water bottles, to check what is lurking in the depths.
Avoiding crocodiles in the water
Crocs camouflage well, and can hide underwater, so don’t hang around on shorelines in croc country, don’t lean out of boats or hang from tree branches over the water and be careful on low bridges. Always keep children and dogs away from water as crocodiles prefer smaller prey to large ones.
“If you find yourself in croc- or gator-infested water, as I once did, swim underwater,” says Bear. “It’s about the scariest thing you’ll ever do, but it stops the crocs mistaking your bobbing head for easy prey like a bird or turtle.”
Bear also advises avoiding a crocodile nest – as mothers will do anything to protect their eggs and young.
Avoiding crocodiles on land
Crocodiles rarely attack on land, but if you do see one, don’t get too close. Back away slowly from the crocodile.
“They’re much slower on land than they are in water,” says Bear in How to Stay Alive. “Their top speed is about 10 miles per hour, and they tire quickly, so you should be able to outrun them.”
Bear also says to run in a straight line rather than a zig-zag.
Fighting a crocodile attack
If a crocodile does manage to attack you and then release you, run away. If it tries to drag you into the water, Bear advises that you attack vulnerable parts like its eyes, or if you can’t reach those, aim for its head.
“Gouge, pierce: do whatever you have to do,” says Bear.
Whatever you do, avoid being dragged into the water – as crocodiles are known for the ‘death roll’ – rolling their prey in the water to kill it by drowning, before tearing it apart.
As a last resort, if you do end up in the water, aim for the palatal valve at the rear of the croc’s mouth. “If you can punch that, water will flood into its lungs. It’ll have to release you, or it will drown,” says Bear.
Finally Bear advises that if you are caught in a death roll, try to roll with the croc to avoid it tearing your limbs from their sockets. If you do survive a croc bite, get to a medic as soon as possible.