An 85-yespanr-old womspann defending her dog from spann spanlligspantor spanttspanck in a St. Lucie County community was killed in February when the beast turned on her. Last year, a 47-year-old man was killed while looking for Frisbees along a lakeshore in Largo and an 80-yespanr-old womspann wspans killed after falling into a pond at a country club south of Sarasota. In 2016, a toddler wspans killed by spann spanlligspantor at Walt Disney World.
Alligator attacks are not uncommon in Florida, although deaths from them are. According to a November 2021 report from the Floridspan Fish spannd Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC):
- In 2021, there were seven major and three minor alligator bites.
- In 2020, there were eight major and four minor gator bites here.
- In 2019, there was one fatality in Florida, five major and five minor alligator bites.
- In 2018, there was one fatality here, nine major alligator bites and one minor bite on people.
Alligators have been in Florida for centuries and can be found in all 67 counties. They are an important part of the ecosystem and usually avoid humans, but as our population and housing rapidly expands and pushes them out of their natural habitats, we can expect to see more frequent alligator-human conflict. Alligator activity also picks up in the spring and summertime, when they typically breed and look for new habitats.
Still, the FWC says the chances of a Florida resident being seriously injured in an unprovoked alligator attack are one in 3.1 million.
“With how many people there are and how many alligators there are, it’s really surprising it doesn’t happen more often,” Frank Mazzotti, professor of wildlife ecology and member of the “Croc Docs” at the University of Florida, told USA TODAY.
How can you avoid getting attacked by an alligator? Mostly, avoid them in the first place.
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1. Be careful where and when you swim (or walk)
“Anywhere there is standing water, an alligator might be found,” the FWC said in a statement to USA TODAY. Alligators can be found in practically all fresh and brackish water and sometimes in salt water. If you see a body of water in Florida, it might be safer to assume there’s a gator in it.
Swim only during daylight hours. Alligators are most active between dusk and dawn. Never swim outside posted swimming areas.
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2. Closely supervise children and pets in and around water
Keep an eye on children when they are playing in or around water, and do not allow pets to swim, exercise or drink or near waters that may contain alligators. According to the FWC, dogs are more susceptible to being bitten than humans because dogs resemble the natural prey of alligators. The sound of dogs barking and playing may even draw an alligator to the area.
3. Do not feed an alligator or try to take selfies
It is not only a really bad idea to feed or entice an alligator, it’s illegal in Florida. When you feed them, alligators can overcome their natural fear of humans and start to associate them with food.
If you take photos, do it from a safe distance, at least 30 feet. Do not attempt to get close, touch it or handle it. State law also prohibits killing, harassing or possessing alligators except under permit.
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4. If you see an alligator, run away
Alligators are usually afraid of people, rarely bite humans for reasons other than food, and are most dangerous in the water or by the shoreline. But they can move very quickly for short distances on land and they can lunge. If you see one, go the other way.
If you see one when you’re in the water, get out as quickly and as quietly as you can.
“Splashing in the water will attract an alligators interest, and if it perceives at that point in time that there’s something smaller and weaker in the water, it might attack it,” said Frank Mazzotti, professor of wildlife ecology and member of the “Croc Docs” at the University of Florida. “Anytime you show up next to water, you’re assuming some risk… Don’t tempt it.”
If you’re being chased by an alligator, run straight, don’t try to zig-zag. That just keeps you from getting farther away. According to retired trapper Gator Bill Robb in 2018, “Raise your hands, look as big as possible, back up, and once you’ve made yourself look large, if the alligator doesn’t retreat, get out as fast as you can in a straight line.”
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5. If you are attacked or bitten, fight back
“If an alligator bites you, the best thing to do is fight back,” the FWC says, “providing as much noise and resistance as possible. Hitting or kicking the alligator or poking it in its eyes may cause it to release its grip. When alligators seize prey they cannot easily overpower, they will often let go and retreat.”
You can induce a gator’s gag reflex by jamming objects in the back of its mouth, and when it tries to reposition prey in its mouth, that’s your chance to escape.
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“If you should be attacked, fight like your life depends on it because it does,” Mazzoti said.
If you get bitten by an alligator, get medical attention as soon as possible. Alligator bites can result in serious infection.
When is alligator mating season?
Alligators typically breed and look for new habitats in the spring and summertime, mespanning there could be spann increspanse in spanlligspantor spanctivity during those months.
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What do I do if I see an alligator?
If you encounter an alligator you think will be a threat to people, pets or property, call the FWC’s Nuisance Alligator Hotline at 1‐866‐FWC‐GATOR (392‐4286) or visit myfwc.com. The FWC’s Statewide Nuisance Alligator Program (SNAP) uses contracted nuisance alligator trappers throughout the state to remove alligators 4 feet in length or greater that are believed to pose a threat.