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Thursday, December 9, 2021

Will a Taser Stop an Alligator?

Firearms are the premier defensive weapon of our time, whether you are trying to protect yourself against hostile humans or aggressive, dangerous animals.

In lieu of a firearm you might use a tasers for ranged defense which can work and work well against mammals, but what about reptiles? This is not a fantastical question if you inhabit regions in the United States where alligators are common.

You might have cause to deploy your taser against these ancient serpents if you carry one for personal protection. The question is, could you really stop an alligator with your taser?

No, a taser won’t work against an alligator. Alligators are protected from snout to tail with tough, scaly hide that is likely to deflect or otherwise prevent the barbs on the taser’s probes from penetrating.

Even if you do get a good shot on a hungry gator, tasers have not been tested or evaluated against reptilian biology, and it is unknown if these potent electrical weapons will do the job.

It is easy to tell someone who carries a taser for protection in gator country to just pick up a gun or stay away from the water, but that doesn’t really get to the bottom of the issue. We will try to do that in the following sections.

How Does a Taser Work?

Getting to the bottom of this issue means we must first understand how our weapon works, or in this case how a taser works.

The word taser is sometimes used interchangeably with stun gun, but these weapons are definitely distinct. Unlike a stun gun, a taser is not a contact distance weapon. A taser is a ranged weapon, and it affords its user range by firing its electrodes with compressed air.

These electrodes are tethered to the device by thin copper wires that trail all the way back to the cartridge and conduct electricity to and then hopefully between the electrodes once they strike and stick to the target.

For the shooter, this is when the fun starts, but for the unfortunate “shootee” or critter this is when the agony starts.

No matter what vintage taser you are using, it will transmit on electric current of substantial voltage, but decidedly low amperage, through the wires to the electrodes where it will then conduct between them one to the other.

This has the effect of producing searing, excruciating pain but more importantly and more germane to this category of weapon it is likely to lock up large muscle groups in the target involuntarily.

In effect, the target is seen to radically stiffen up, fall down and remain rigid while this current is being applied. Once the current stops, after either a prescribed interval of time or when the taser is deactivated, they nominally regain immediate control of their body.

In a self-defense situation involving a citizen, this buys the user time to run away. In a law enforcement situation it can easily disable or debilitate a resisting suspect, hopefully without inflicting severe injuries.

Tasers vs. Wildlife

Though tasers are most famously, or rather infamously, used most often against humans it might surprise you to learn they do have an established if spotty track record against wildlife.

When law enforcement officers have been faced with dangerous or unruly animals that cannot be controlled in any other way, some have opted to use their taser instead of dosing the animal with dodgy knockout drugs or straight up shooting them to end their rampage (or their suffering).

Happily, tasers do seem to be effective against all kinds of mammals, including such large and beefy specimens as bears, elk and even moose.

A dangerous animal encounter is one thing, but sometimes animals just get themselves into a pickle where they cannot be retrieved or rescued without endangering human lives, such as getting tangled up in fencing, netting or other constructions.

In a few cases, tasers have been deployed against the unfortunate animal to immobilize them while wildlife officers or other interested parties take rapid action to resolve the problem.

In each of these publicized cases, the affected animal was no worse for the wear and ran off immediately afterwards.

For our purposes, this seems to suggest that a taser might be an entirely valid and even highly effective weapon to use against an alligator.

But Alligators are Another Story

Using a taser to good effect against an alligator is plausible, but there are practical considerations that point in the opposite direction, at least in this author’s opinion.

First, considering the biology of the alligator our target is no longer upright and approximately the same profile as a human from the front, or as broad as a barn when viewed from the side.

An alligator is low slung and long, close to the ground, not exactly an ideal target for a weapon that fires a pair of rapidly spreading probes.

What’s more, an alligator is not covered in soft skin and fluffy fur, what is instead of armored from its nose to the tip of its tail and tough, flexible scales.

Those scales that can easily shrug off the claws, teeth and other defensive adaptations or weapons found in the animal kingdom, and just as easily deflect or outright block a tiny, fish hook-like barb traveling through the air, even one moving at 50 meters a second.

If the barbs connect but are quickly knocked free thanks to the scuttling movement of the gator or if one of the barbs fails to connect at all, your taser will not work as designed and then your only option will be to attempt a drive or contact application.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to get into hand-to-hand, or rather hand-to-jaw, combat with an American alligator, crocodile or any other huge, dangerous lizard.

Trying to Taze a Gator May Get You Killed

Considering all of the relevant factors in totality, we are left to conclude that relying on a taser in a genuine aggressive encounter with an alligator may very well get you killed.

First, accurately hitting the alligator with a single shot will prove challenging, and anchoring both barbs securely in the animal is anything but certain under ideal conditions, to say nothing of actual conditions in the field.

Second, though a taser has proven effective time and time again against human beings and large mammals, the same cannot be said for reptiles.

I searched long and hard looking for a single documented study on the subject or even a verified usage of a taser by a civilian or wildlife control officer against an alligator or crocodile. I was unable to find any, not one, single incident that appeared legitimate.

What this means is that you’ll be rolling the dice on obtaining a successful outcome in a defensive situation against a large gator if you are relying on a taser.

I’m not saying that your taser will not work; I’m just saying that the odds of a successful shot are comparatively very low against a gator compared to a human or other large mammal.

Even if you do successfully stick the barbs in the unruly reptile, we do not have enough data to know for sure if the taser will function as designed and stop it before it can hurt you.

Conclusion

Tasers work great against people and large mammals, but we don’t know for sure if the same electrical discharge will work well against a large reptile.

Furthermore, an alligator is what you might call a hard target for a taser’s method of incapacitation and the small, flimsy barbs that it relies on to securely anchor the electrodes.

I’m not saying your taser will not work against an alligator, but you probably don’t want to be the first to test the assumption that it will.

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