If you’ve ever seen the critically acclaimed 1975 film, “JAWS,” you’ve probably asked yourself about the validity of large sea creatures attacking your boat.
It is common for people to fear open water and the animals that lurk beneath, but how common is it for an animal to attack your boat?
Do animals attack boats?
There are reported attacks on boats by animals each year in the United States; however, not all attacks are intentional. It is known that fish often jump out of the water and hit fishermen without meaning to, however, some predators do choose to attack a boat if they feel threatened.
It is, however, very less likely that an animal is attacking your boat in order to eat you.
If you aren’t messing with predators or other animals, most likely, those predators will leave you alone.
That being said, we’ve gathered data on many predators in the wild that may attack a boat for one reason or another:
Do SHARKS Attack Boats?
There have been many reported instances where sharks do attack boats.
However, a shark attack is usually not intended to injure or even eat the humans on board.
Instead, sharks are known to investigate situations with their teeth when they think something might be edible.
This can have nasty consequences on boats and divers, but it also should be clear that sharks themselves are simply investigating if something is edible and they can feed on it.
In this video example of a rubber tour boat being bitten by a great white shark, it is highly believed that in this instance, the shark was under the impression the boat was a dead animal floating on the surface of the water.
Due to the rubber consistency of the material, the shark most likely assumed it was a dead whale or large seal – since the tour group was seal-watching when they came across this female great white.
Sharks are known to scavenge animal carcasses in order to meet their required caloric intake without expending too much effort.
In another video example, though, a bull shark attacks a fishing boat motor unprovoked. This is likely due to a bull shark’s more aggressive nature, and the fact that some sharks simply don’t know what something is without first nibbling on it.
If the shark felt threatened by a motor, which is very likely as motors are loud, disruptive to their hunting environment, and scare off fish, the shark would most likely feel like they should attack.
In the video description of the bull shark, the author writes that the shark was “completely insane,” but that’s most likely not the case.
Sharks are just big, toothy fish, and if they think something is worth nibbling on, they will sink their teeth into it.
Finally, it should be noted that it is VERY rare for a shark to outright attack a human in the water.
Humans are not on a shark’s diet, and while they sometimes confuse a surfer for a seal, they are less likely to attack a human than they are to chase down a sickly whale.
Do WHALES Attack Boats?
Whales are a much different story than sharks when it comes to attacking boats or people.
A shark is a large fish with sharp teeth, and they often peruse the world around them by taking a nibble or two out of something they want to know more about.
Whales, however, are intelligent mammals who have been known to recognize humans that they’ve met before, to understand how to trail a fishing boat to collect scraps and leftovers, and even sometimes to steal a catch from a fisherman.
This means that whales have a little more intent when it comes to attacking a boat than sharks do.
Whales are playful by nature, and they have been known to follow humans along on tours and trips in order to play in the wake of their boats.
However, a whale doesn’t recognize how large it is in relation to a person or their watercraft.
If the whale were to accidentally run into a boat, breach (or jump out of the water) on top of it, or even play tug-of-war on the anchor, it can cause damage to a boat and sometimes even to the people on board without the whale meaning to do so.
However, whales have not been known to maliciously attack a boat unless it is to steal a big net of caught fish from a fisherman.
There are reports of whales who have lashed out with their large tails against boats, such as sperm whales, if they feel threatened, and this is more of a reflex on the animal’s part than it is a direct intent to harm.
Do ORCAS Attack Boats?
Orcas, or killer whales, are actually NOT a whale at all.
Did you know that Orcas are actually a type of dolphin? However, because they are the largest type of dolphin, they have been popularly mistaken to be a whale.
Orcas, like dolphins, hunt in packs or “pods,” and they often coordinate their attacks in order to get the best results out of a hunt.
Whales, on the other hand, often open their mouths and filter in hundreds of krill, small fish, or other foods all at once.
Orcas are not slow-moving fish filters, though. They are fast, smart, and well-versed in how humans catch and process fish.
This means that Orcas are the ultimate pirate in the ocean these days, attacking fishing nets and stealing the bounty right out from under a fisherman’s nose.
This could be considered attacking a boat, but the whale does not intend to harm or injure the watercraft. Instead, they see large schools of fish all in one pre-packaged container that they can try and cut loose and eat from.
Furthermore, Orcas have been known to really like humans.
Like dolphins, Orcas are interested in the way that people operate out of sheer curiosity, and often will come up to recreational watercraft or kayakers to say hello!
This can be dangerous, though, as Orcas are incredibly large compared to a kayak or even a personal watercraft.
So while orcas are not going to try and eat a human for breakfast – we aren’t in their diet – they are more likely going to accidentally tip you over or crash into you.
Do ALLIGATORS and CROCODILES Attack Boats?
Alligators and Crocodiles are prehistoric, reptilian predators with a taste for any edible fish or mammal they can get their teeth on.
This makes them fierce hunters and more dangerous to humans than the average shark. Mostly, this is because, in a lot of places in the world, humans ARE in a crocodile’s diet.
Since crocs and gators are still very different in how they hunt and where they live, we will cut this section up into two different explanations of why these animals attack boats:
It is much more common for crocodile attacks in places like Africa and Australia than in the United States.
There are only four species of crocodiles in the Americas, and the most widespread is the “American Crocodile.”
However, the Nile and saltwater crocodiles, found in Africa, Australia, and even in Asia, are known to be the most aggressive and responsible for the most attacks on humans.
Crocs are “opportunistic” hunters, which means that they will eat what they can get their jaws on. However, it also means that they are less likely to expunge energy for something that isn’t worth their time – namely, attack a boat.
While there are numerous crocodile attack reports in places like Queensland, Australia, or in parks or wild trials in West Africa each year, only crocs that reach a size of upwards of seven (7) feet will fatally injure a human.
This is because animals don’t usually try to eat something that is bigger than them. They will opt for easier, smaller prey.
However, any sized crocodile can take a quick bite out of a person if they feel that they are threatened, and that can have terrible consequences.
Alligators are only native to the United States and China.
They are also generally smaller and less aggressive than crocodiles, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t dangerous.
Mostly found on the Gulf Coast and in the wetlands of Florida, gators have been part of their culture for generations.
Humans love to hunt, raise, and eat gators, and in return, gators have been known to attack dogs, cats, and even humans themselves.
Furthermore, wetland exploration usually involves a very thin or flat boat to navigate all the vegetation and marshy landscape. This means that you have far less protection from an alligator on a wetland boat than you do on a regular boat.
Again, alligators are less likely to try and eat something that is bigger than them, but if they feel threatened, a gator will attack.
Do HIPPOS Attack Boats?
According to National Geographic, hippos are one of the most aggressive mammals in Africa, beating other animals like lions, hyenas, and even baboons in levels of aggression.
These animals are incredibly territorial and more likely to attack a boat out of aggression than any other animal on this list.
Hippos also weigh about 6,000 lbs. This means that they have been known to scare off crocodiles, and they can do a lot of damage to a boat or person.
Do BEARS Attack Boats?
It is far less likely that you are going to run into a bear out on the water, but on riverbanks and shorelines in areas where bears are common, it is possible.
This means you need to be very wary what time of year you go fishing and where you do it.
Bear migration patterns make them very territorial at certain times of the year, during fish migrations mainly and while they are fattening up for winter or giving birth to cubs.
If you think you are in danger of running into a grizzly on a riverbank or shore, consider moving to a new spot.
Do GIANT SQUIDS Attack Boats?
If you’ve ever seen a pirate movie, or perhaps read a historical novel about the “monsters at the edge of the map,” you may have heard of the Kraken.
Based on early sightings of giant squids, the Kraken was a mythological beast that had been rumored by sailors and pirates alike to attack ships at sea and pull them down into the crushing depths of the ocean.
Whether the Kraken was a very real giant squid, or it was simply a superstition, the giant squid has been getting a bad reputation ever since.
A Giant squid eats mainly fish, and they are even preyed upon by sperm whales. They are generally not aggressive, and there really isn’t much known about them as researching them is hard to do.
Most of all, giant squids are considered to be slow, non-active hunters. Rather, if something was to jump into their grasp, they will most likely try to catch and eat it as prey.
Furthermore, giant squids don’t usually hang out on the surface of the water, so attacking a boat is far less likely than it is catching fish underwater.
How Often do Animals Attack Boats?
Animals are very reactive rather than aggressive.
At the end of the day, you are more likely to get attacked by an animal on your boat if you have accidentally threatened or frightened that animal.
If you happen to come across a curious shark, maybe your boat will suffer a nibble or two. If you are boating in a hippo’s territory, you are far more likely to get attacked or run off.
The average boater is most likely never going to be outright attacked by an animal on the water.
Stay informed and respectful of the animals you see in the wild, and you will be fine.
Shelby Sullivan is our specialist when it comes to pontoon boats and recreational watercraft. She is often found sailing the freshwater lakes of Michigan. She is also a light-traveler who enjoys camping and traveling the world. Read more about Shelby here.