Living with Alligators
Living with Alligators
Alligators have inhabited Florida’s marshes, swamps, rivers and lakes for many centuries, and are found in all 67 counties. In recent years, Florida has experienced tremendous human population growth. Many residents seek waterfront homes, and increasingly participate in water-related activities. This can result in more frequent alligator-human interactions, and a greater potential for conflict.

Although many Floridians have learned to coexist with alligators, the potential for conflict always exists. Because of their predatory nature and large size (up to 14 feet in length and weighing as much as 1,000 pounds), alligators sometimes attack pets and livestock. Unfortunately, humans are occasionally attacked, and in rare instances, killed by large alligators. Since 1948, more than 275 unprovoked attacks on humans have been documented in Florida, with at least 17 resulting in deaths.
 The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) annually receives more than 18,000 alligator-related complaints. Most of these complaints deal with alligators occurring in places such as backyard ponds, canals, ditches and streams, but other conflicts occur in garages, pools and in golf course ponds. In many cases, if left alone, alligators will eventually retreat to more-preferred, isolated areas away from people.

Alligator close-up

Safety Tips
Never allow small children unattended near water
 If you encounter an alligator over four feet in length and that poses a threat to humans or property, call 1-866-FWC-GATOR (392-4286). The FWC will evaluate your complaint, and if necessary send a registered trapper to remove the alligator.
● Be aware of the possibility of alligator attacks when in or near fresh or brackish waterbodies. Attacks may occur when people do not pay close enough attention to their surroundings when working or recreating near water.

● Closely supervise children when they are playing in or around water. Never allow small children to play unsupervised near water.

● Do not swim outside of posted swimming areas or in waters that might be inhabited by large alligators.

● Alligators are most active between dusk and dawn. Therefore, swim only during daylight hours.

● Leave alligators alone. State law prohibits killing, harassing or possession of alligators.

● Never feed or entice alligators - it’s dangerous and illegal. When fed, alligators overcome their natural wariness and learn to associate people with food.

Alligator on lawn

● Inform others that feeding alligators is illegal and creates problems for others who want to use the water for recreational purposes.

● Dispose of fish scraps in garbage cans at boat ramps and fish camps - do not throw them in the water. Although you are not intentionally feeding alligators when you do this, the end result can be the same.

● Don’t allow pets to swim, exercise or drink in or near waters that may contain alligators or in designated swimming areas with humans. Dogs are more susceptible to being attacked than humans, because dogs resemble the natural prey of alligators.

● Never remove an alligator from its natural habitat or accept one as a pet. It is illegal and dangerous to do so. Handling even small alligators can result in injury.

● 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 freshwater ecosystems.

● Seek immediate medical attention if bitten by an alligator. Alligator bites often result in serious infection.

In Florida, increasing numbers of people living and recreating near water have led to a steady rise in the number of alligator-related complaints. Although the majority of these complaints relate to alligators occurring in locations where they simply aren’t wanted, a small number tragically involve attacks on humans. The FWC removes more than 7,000 nuisance alligators per year. Through removal of these alligators and increased public awareness, the rate of alligator attacks has remained constant despite the increased potential for alligator-human interaction.

Alligators are an important part of Florida’s heritage and play an important role in the ecology of our state’s wetlands. A better understanding of these facts and a broader knowledge of alligator behavior will help ensure that humans and alligators can continue to coexist.

Alligator overhead
A printable (PDF) version 
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Living with Alligators
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