How big do crocodiles need to be to pose a danger to a normal, healthy adult human?

I saw a PBS “Nature” episode last night, about giant crocodilians. The man who was searching for the giants easily caught, by hand, a four-foot-long freshwater Australian “pygmy crocodile”. That got me to thinking – exactly how big does a crocodile need to be, in order to kill a normal, healthy adult human being?

Depends on where it bites you… Given a bit of luck (good or bad, depending on your POV), a rather small croc could kill you by nailing you in the throat.

Quite small crocs could easily remove fingers… A three footer could wreck your whole year if it got your hand in the wrong way.

Can we change this thread title to add ‘Need answer fast’?

It only has to be big enough to drown you in a death roll, or cause enough damage that you bleed to death. Even a little four-footer could do that.

Yeah… just because some pro can catch a four-foot croc by hand doesn’t mean I wouldn’t consider it a real threat to my life. This is especially true if I was out in a swamp and not able to get 911 service.

This depends on the size of the animal, the species and the circumstances of the encounter. A reasonably fit person who has some experience with crocodilians can subdue a 5 or 6 foot alligator without ropes or tools or injuries. Much beyond that size and the odds shift decidedly in the gator’s direction.

Crocodiles are generally more dangerous. I had a salt-water crocodile hatchling back in the seventies that became unmanageable (for me) when it reached about 5 feet long. I adopted a 3 foot alligator many years ago that was near death due to malnutrition and dehydration, and it put a tooth all the way through my thumb while I was trying to treat an infection in its mouth. Any crocodilian big enough to engulf one’s hand is capable of removing one’s hand, and capable of doing severe damage to anything it bites.

One of the consistent themes that surprises me is just how much stronger or more predatory/aggressive/deadly even small animals can be. During the hullabaloo over that idiot woman mauled by her chimp, there were several notes in the stories about how badly even a smaller chimp could mess you up. A female leopard weighing 100 lb. or so (not unrealistic) could kill you in a heartbeat. How much does a pit bull weigh? Not a lot, relative to a grown man, but I know who my money is on in a fight . . . .

It should be on the man, who will easily take a 40 lb pit bull down. He might get hurt, but the dog would be dead.

Hey, Crotalus!

I concur. For an experienced handler who initiates and is thus prepared for the encounter, six or seven feet for alligators, perhaps a bit smaller for some of the crocs, which seem a touch more nimble than gators. Not to say necessarily more or less aggressive, depending on species. This doesn’t apply if you just fall off the boat into the animal’s own territory.

Once upon a time we had on display (among several species and sizes of crocodilians) a small Nile crocodile and an American croc almost exactly the same size. A naturalist friend sometimes “borrowed” selected animals from us to use in classroom educational programs. This being Florida, he often wanted the native crocodile. Normally I crated animals for him to pick up, but on this occasion I forgot he was coming and I was away from the facility when he arrived, so he picked them out himself. My staff were familiar with him, so they offered no objection and he didn’t ask for help.

I was present when he returned, and I immediately observed that both his hands were swathed in improvised bandages complete with blood. “Damn, CannyDan, what’s gotten into your little acutas (species of the American croc) today?” he asked. “He ripped the shit out of me as soon as I took him out. I could hardly get him back in the kennel. You should have heard the kids screaming about all the blood! Then I had to go to the school clinic and get my hands wrapped up. Now I’m having a hell of a time holding the steering wheel.”

“Beats me” I answered as I took the kennel from his hand, expecting to return the little croc to his enclosure. But then I looked inside, and said “But I don’t think that was an issue today”. My friend held up both his hands, and replied “Hell if it wasn’t!!” “Well then” I suggested “let’s go outside and ask the acutas then.” “What? Ask the little bastard right now! --oh, no— you don’t mean…?” “Yep, this is niloticus. I find them to be a bit more testy than the natives.”

Indeed, my friend had mistaken the Nile croc for its American cousin. These guys were all of 16 inches long, but I doubt you could convince my friend that they wouldn’t qualify as dangerous.

I’ve often said that I’d rather handle an 8 foot American Alligator than a 5 foot Spectacled Caiman. Caimans are just nasty little creatures. And perhaps we shouldn’t even mention the Cuban croc; a remarkably beautiful animal, but with a truly horrific temperament.

All I know about crocodiles and alligators I learned from Steve Irwin, The Crocodile Hunter. So don’t take this as too authoritative, and don’t try this at home.

Steve always said that the Australian freshwater croc is almost completely harmless to humans. They just won’t attack you. I was never sure if I fully believed him, or even if he fully believed it.

Until this one episode on his show. He was in a boat in a billabong in the middle of the night, with Teri holding a spotlight. The water was teeming with freshies. Steve spotted one that had a fishing net tangled around him, and immediately dove into the water to capture it. He swam through the crowds of other crocs and eventually caught the tangled one. He brought him back to the boat, cut loose the net, and released. The one he caught was probably about 3 feet long, but there were many in the 4- and 5-foot range in the water with him. Steve seemed totally unconcerned about them, and he was apparently right to feel that way.

On the other hand, this is the guy who enjoyed pissing off cobras so that they’d spray venom in his face.

To be precise, the lady mauled by the chimp was not its owner/keeper. I’ll agree the owner/keeper was an idiot.

I’d agree too. Up to about 5 or 6 feet, you would have to be unlucky to be killed by most crocodilians. Over 7 or 8 feet, you’re in big trouble. But it varies by temperment of the species.

Here in Panama we have American Crocodiles, which are alleged to be mainly fish eaters and comparatively non-aggressive towards humans. There are probably only a half dozen documented fatalities in Panama. Thirty years ago, at the field station where I worked, we used to go swimming off a raft within a few hundred yards of a nesting beach used by a 10-foot female. We worked on the theory that Natasha was the only big croc in the area, and if we could see her on the beach, we weren’t in danger. Then one day her mate Boris, who was also a 10-footer, showed up, and shot that theory to hell. But no one was ever attacked.

However, in more recent years there have been several attacks in the area, including a fatality. On a couple occasions people swimming have been bitten by a croc they didn’t see, probably a 5 or 6 footer based on the bite size, most likely because the were near a nesting beach. I suspect that crocs have been becoming less shy of humans since they have been protected from hunting for many years now.

Nile crocs are far more dangerous, and are much more likely to go after large mammals that are near the water’s edge. An acquaintance of mine lost a forearm while bathing in a river near a research station. (Like everyone else at the station, I gone bathing at the same spot but had left the station a few weeks before the event occurred>) The croc grabbed her as she washed her hair, probably going for her head but getting her arm instead. The croc tried a death roll to drown her, but fortunately a research assistant (and a pretty big guy) was also bathing there and managed to grab her and drag her ashore. She survived, but her forearm was so mangled it had to be amputated. That croc was probably 8 to 10 feet long.

Here’s an account of the attack I mentioned above, which states that the croc was eight feet long. I believe this was originally published in Reader’s Digest. Despite the melodramatic style, as far as I know the details are true.

Since then I’ve never gone near a body of water of any size in Africa that could possibly have Nile crocs in it.

If a crock can hold it’s breath longer than a human then it’s a function of how much extra weight a person can tread water with. The jaw muscles are not easy to overcome so they just have to grap and hold on in 10 feet of water.

The St Lucia Crocodile Farm in KwaZulu-Natal has pits filled with baby crocodiles grouped according to age. There are signs everywhere warning visitors not to stick their hands anywhere near the crocs because they can easily remove a finger.

The baby crocs were awesome to watch, like a pile of puppies, vicious, armoured, green puppies. At feeding time the staff would throw the meat into the pits and the crocs would swarm over the food, stick a hand in and they would do the same.

That’s certainly what I’ve always heard. They are fish eaters. My understanding is that they simply do not eat anything that resembles mammals. They just would not see any reason to bite you.

Steve Irwin was a pussy: his schtick was doing relatively safe things while saying “Crikey” a lot and going on about how dangerous it was. If you want a real crocodile guy you need to see Rob Bredl. Check out some videos on this page:

American Pit Bull Terrier breed standard is 30-60 pounds for a male (65 pounds for one breed club).

American Pit Bull Terrier breed standard (UKC) behavior toward humans:

That’s why Michael Vick was able to kill so many pit bulls – in his case, pit bulls brutalized and trained for aggression – with his bare hundred-million-dollar hands, without fearing damage. They’re usually submissive toward humans even when they’re in pain and fear.

Not only will your grown man kill the pit bull, but even if he doesn’t the apparatus of the state will arrive shortly and finish the job for him.

Humans almost always beat pit bulls. Humans (including city pounds and county animal “shelters”) kill so many pit bulls each year that humans are far and away the predominant cause of pit bull death. It is statistically freakish when the tables are occasionally turned.

edit: as for crocodiles, even crocodile eggs can carry salmonella.

NB: The vast majority of Vick’s dogs were saved, rehabilitated, and rehomed successfully.

Yes – an almost totally unique event for a fighting dog ring bust. The Humane Society of the United States and PETA lobbied the police and judges to have all the Vick dogs killed, but for once they did not prevail. Instead they were evaluated and had an advocate appointed for them by the court. Best Friends and BADRAP led other organizations in the effort to rehab and rehome.

But that’s regarded as unusual. Generally, the police and courts kill fight bust dogs regardless of how they might behave when evaluated.


The subject of pit bulls and Michael Vick is pretty tangential to the subject of this thread. Let’s stick to discussion of crocodilians.

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