The Almanac encourages our readers to enjoy nature now more than ever during this time of “social distancing.” Outdoor spaces are largely safe and soothing to the soul but, while enjoying nature isn’t tricky, there are a few things to be mindful of as spring approaches. April is the month the courtship process for the state's more than one million alligators begins. Male alligators tend to be on the move looking for a girlfriend. Sometimes this leads them a little further into strange territory than normal. Mating then happens in May or June before females build a nest and deposit about 32 to 46 eggs.
Living with Alligators
In Florida, the growing number of people living and recreating near water has led to a steady rise in the number of alligator-related complaints. The majority of these complaints relate to alligators being where they simply aren’t wanted. Because of these complaints, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Statewide Nuisance Alligator Program permits the killing of approximately 7,000 nuisance alligators each year. Using this approach, and through increased public awareness, the rate of alligator bites on people has remained constant despite the increased potential for alligator-human interactions as Florida’s human population has grown. Alligators are an important part of Florida’s landscape and play a valuable role in the ecology of our state’s wetlands. Alligators are predators and help keep other aquatic animal populations in balance, so coexistence is essential.
Alligators and People
Alligators are a fundamental part of Florida’s wetlands, swamps, rivers and lakes, and they are found in all 67 counties. Florida continues to experience human population growth. Many new residents seek waterfront homes, resulting in increased interactions between people and alligators. Although most Floridians understand that we have alligators living in our state, the potential for conflict exists. Because of their predatory nature, alligators may target pets and livestock as prey. Unfortunately, people also are occasionally bitten. Since 1948, Florida has averaged about five unprovoked bites per year. During that period, a little more than 300 unprovoked bites to people have been documented in Florida, with 22 resulting in deaths. In the past 10 years, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has received an average of nearly 16,000 alligator-related complaints per year. Most of these complaints deal with alligators occurring in places such as backyard ponds, canals, ditches and streams, but other conflicts occur when alligators wander into garages, swimming pools and golf course ponds. Sometimes, alligators come out of the water to bask in the sun or move between wetlands. In many cases, if left alone, these alligators will eventually move on to areas away from people.
Alligator Safety Rules
Never feed alligators – it’s dangerous and illegal. When fed, alligators can overcome their natural wariness and learn to associate people with food. When this happens, some of these alligators have to be removed and killed.
Dispose of fish scraps in garbage cans at boat ramps and fish camps. Do not throw them into the water. Although you are not intentionally feeding alligators when you do this, the result can be the same.
Seek immediate medical attention if you are bitten by an alligator. Alligator bites can result in serious infections. Observe and photograph alligators only from a distance. Remember, they’re an important part of Florida’s natural history as well as an integral component of aquatic ecosystems.
There is a Nuisance Alligator Hotline at 866-FWCGATOR (866-392-4286). Please be aware, nuisance alligators are killed, not relocated.
(content courtesy of Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission, photos by Inside Track Almanac)