What started out as a relaxing fishing trip in a kayak on Ross Barnett Reservoir ended with a fisherman fearing for his life.
"I was fishing above Highway 43 along Pipeline Road there," Jake Rickman of Brandon said. "I'd gone up there a mile or so and saw two alligators."
To Rickman, alligators are just a part of the experience and he doesn't worry about them. Even when one slowly approached him, Rickman wasn't concerned. He just paddled a short distance and continued fishing.
"I see them every time I go," Rickman said. "There's alligators everywhere up there.
"If you don't mess with them, they won't mess with you has been pretty much my mindset with them. I've never had one act aggressive at all until last week."
Rickman had already seen two alligators in the area, but then something behind him caught his eye. It was a third, larger alligator coming straight to him and it was only 30 feet away.
A potentially serious situation"I guess I got lucky," Rickman said. "I turned around and he was pretty much right there.
"He was swimming as fast as he could. He was definitely coming in aggressively."
Rickman began paddling his 12-foot kayak and tried to outrun the 9-foot alligator, but the gator began swimming faster.
"I was not getting away from him by paddling at all," Rickman said.
With the gator only a couple of feet away, Rickman knew he was in a potentially serious situation.
"I'm freaking out," Rickman said. "He was on the heel of my kayak.
"It was scary. I've never had anything act aggressive toward me. I'm not going out by an alligator was all I was thinking. The only thing I knew to do was grab my paddle and hit him on the head."
Rickman whacked the gator on the top of its head. That was enough to make it stop and Rickman was able to get away from the animal.
"I think it scared him more than anything," Rickman said. "I think it shocked him."
Rickman said he still has not figured out why the alligator behaved like it did.
"I've never had that happen so it puzzles me why that happened," Rickman said.
Breeding display of dominanceAccording to Ricky Flynt, Alligator Program coordinator for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks, it was most likely related to breeding activity which is taking place now.
"When we're in the peak of the breeding season, males are territorial," Flynt said. "I've had large male alligators display and come up to my aluminum boat.
"They will come up and show their back, raise their head out of the water and raise their tail out of the water. They try to make themselves look as big as possible."
Flynt explained the posturing is used to show dominance to other male alligators as well as attract female alligators, but will sometimes exhibit the behavior toward boats.
"If I've seen that in a 16-foot aluminum boat, I can see that happening to someone in a kayak," Flynt said.
There is also another possible reason the gator behaved as he did.
"We're not talking about extremely intelligent critters," Flynt said. "They might mistake a kayak for an alligator."
Flynt said alligators will also approach humans if they've been conditioned by feeding, but given the location of Rickman's encounter, he doesn't think that is the case.
What if I'm approached by an alligator?If approached by an alligator, Flynt said there are three courses of action.
• Make motions: Wave your hands and arms.
• Make noises: Yell at the alligator loudly.
• Separate distance: In other words, get out of there quickly.
"People should always avoid close proximity to alligators," Flynt said. "That's the simplest defensive tactic you can use — keep your distance."