Florida Wildlife Viewing How to Handle Alligator Encounters

How To Handle Alligator Encounters





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What To Do -- And NOT

Alligators in Florida are still a protected species, despite their huge numbers. The old saying is that the smallest Florida lake holds at least one alligator.

So, you are almost certain to see alligators when you're around lakes and rivers.

Because of their predatory nature and large size (up to 14 feet in length and greater than 1,000 pounds), alligators can, and occasionally do, attack pets and livestock.

Humans, too, occasionally are attacked and in rare instances are killed by large alligators. More than 200 unprovoked alligator attacks on humans have been documented since 1948, with 13 resulting in fatalities. 

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission makes these recommendations:

Leave alligators alone. State law prohibits people from killing, harassing, molesting or attempting to move alligators. The potential for being bitten or injured by a provoked alligator is high. 

Closely supervise children when playing in or around water. Never allow small children to play by themselves near water. 

What Not To Do

Don't swim outside of posted swimming areas or in waters that might contain large alligators. Swim only during daylight hours. Alligators most actively feed at dusk, dawn or at night.

Don't allow pets to swim, exercise or drink in waters not known to be free of alligators or in designated swimming areas with humans. Dogs suffer many more attacks than humans, probably because dogs more closely resemble natural prey items of large alligators. Alligators are more likely to attack small animals than larger ones.

Never remove alligators from their natural habitat or accept one as a pet. It is a violation of state law to do so. Alligators do not become tame in captivity and handling even small ones may result in bites. 

Seek immediate medical attention if you are bitten by an alligator. Alligators harbor a very infectious bacteria, and even minor bites may require special treatment. 

Never feed or entice alligators - it's dangerous and illegal. Alligators overcome their natural shyness and become accustomed or attracted to humans when fed.
Inform others that feeding alligators is a violation of state law and that by feeding alligators, people create problems for others who want to use the water for recreational purposes. 

Dispose of fish scraps in garbage cans at most boat ramps or fish camps. Although you are not intentionally feeding alligators when you dispose of fish scraps in water, the end result can be the same -- feeding. 

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