How to Escape a Crocodile Death Roll


Should you find yourself in the jaws of a hungry crocodile, the only thing you can do is fight back. However, even if you manage to escape, you are sure to sustain horrific injuries; so, avoiding the encounter is preferable to betting on your right hook's ability to dissuade such a prehistoric beast. The crocodile uses the death roll to incapacitate prey and dislodge hunks of flesh -- a technique that serves them well.

Avoiding the Altercation

  • Crocodiles have sat atop the food chain of aquatic and semiaquatic habitats for millions of years. Occasionally exceeding one ton in weight, the immense bulk of crocodiles allows them to overpower animals as large as buffalo; a several-hundred-pound human is unlikely to escape from the jaws of a hungry crocodile. Accordingly, avoidance is the best path to survival. Refrain from swimming or spending time near the water-shore interface -- where most attacks occur -- in areas populated by large crocodiles. This is especially true at night, when the large reptiles are most active. Crocodiles are incredibly cryptic animals for their size, so it does not mean that you are safe, just because you do not see any lurking nearby.

Anatomy of a Death Roll

  • Equipped with over 60 teeth -- some of which may exceed 4 inches in length -- and the strongest jaws ever measured, crocodiles are incredibly well suited for grabbing prey. However, their bear-trap-like jaws are not suitable for tearing food into bite-sized pieces. To overcome this obstacle, crocodiles developed death-rolling behavior as a mechanism for ripping huge chunks of flesh from their prey. After gripping their prey, crocodiles begin spinning by throwing their tails upward and sideways, swinging their heads in the same direction and folding up their legs. The technique is also effective for killing prey, so crocodiles often use it to subdue large animals. Some crocodiles are capable of rotating more than once every second, while dragging their helpless prey along for the ride.

Fight for Your Life

  • Most attacks occur suddenly, starting with a strong clamping bite from the crocodile. If the circumstances allow, try to immobilize the animal so that it cannot initiate a death roll. This is unlikely to be possible with anything other than a relatively small crocodile, but it is always worth trying. If other people are close -- and willing -- they should jump on the crocodile to help control its body. Try to wait for an immobile crocodile to open its jaws slightly and jerk your hand or leg out. If the crocodile begins rolling, try to grip the animal and spin with it to reduce the torque on your body. Punch, kick, poke and claw the crocodile’s eyes, ears and nostrils with your hands, feet or anything else within grasp.

Scramble to Safety

  • Even if you manage to free yourself when the crocodile adjusts his grip, or you gouge his eyes, causing him to release you, he may grab you and try again. Exit the water as quickly as possible and keep running. Forget the conventional -- but incorrect -- wisdom that you should zigzag your way to safety. Run straight, fast and far, and seek immediate medical attention for your bacteria-laden wounds.

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