Ultimate Guide To Florida Alligators

Living With Alligators in Florida

Florida, the 27th state, is the most southeasterly state in the entire United States. As locals and tourists continue to flock to the region to live, retire and vacation, more and more homes and resorts spring into action. As the population increases, the swamplands, once patrolled mostly by reptiles and nature’s creatures, become less and less and the possibility of animal encounters increases. The state of Florida presently has over 20 million people and over one million alligators. When it comes to encounters with alligators, the best possible advice is to try your best not to have those encounters by staying a safe distance of at least 50 feet away. If one bites you, the advice is to make the most noise possible and work hard to get away. Use force if necessary. Don’t approach to take selfies; don’t approach to check if it’s alive; and if you’re headed into any of Florida’s many fresh water streams, lakes or springs, take great care – alligators are often around even if you can’t see them.

Alligator Facts

  • American alligators were once considered almost extinct
  • By the 1950s, endless hunting had almost wiped out the population
  • By the 1980s, the population managed to recover; gators were removed from the endangered species list
  • Although confrontations occur, attacks on humans by alligators are still considered rare
  • Homes and communities now lie on edges of alligator habitats or have water that alligators seek
  • Alligators are often drawn to storm water ponds of all sorts
  • Regardless of whether it’s natural or man-made, if there’s a body of water in Florida, there could be an alligator in it
  • Alligators have a preference for fresh water and sometimes brackish water
  • Statistical data suggests that the probability of being killed by an alligator is low
  • Since the early 1970s, there have been 23 fatalities and under 400 unprovoked bites by alligators in Florida
  • Mating season for alligators is late April through early June
  • Females build their nest and lay on average 20-45 eggs in June/July
  • Eggs traditionally hatch from the middle of August through the beginning of September
  • Egg, hatchling and nest survival is often stunted by predators (like raccoons) and flooding
  • Alligators rely on external heat sources in order to regulate their body temperature (which is why they can often be found lying in the sun or on a hot surface)
  • 80-90 degrees Fahrenheit is the range of temperature when gators are most active
  • Limited feeding takes place during temperatures less than 70 degrees Fahrenheit
  • The hibernation or dormant period for gators is often when the temperature is below 55 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Alligator classification: reptiles (direct ancestors: dinosaurs)
  • An alligator’s heart has four chambers (most reptiles have 3)
  • The American alligator is known as the largest reptile in North America
  • Alligators are the official state reptile of Florida
  • The alligator is the mascot of the University of Florida

 

Advice From The Experts

Photo Courtesy of Jack Hanna

Jack Hanna (Director Emeritus of Columbia Zoo/Aquarium)

  • Alligators can go six months a year without eating
  • Alligators migrate far distances (they walk on roads, crawl through pipes, slug through swamplands)
  • It is difficult to keep alligators contained to one space
  • Alligators mostly ignore humans and are often unsettled/frightened by them
  • If hungry, and humans are in the water, alligators may go for the ankles of that nearby human (regardless of age, weight or size)
  • An alligator is able to outrun all human creatures within the first 20-30 feet of exiting the water – making it very difficult for humans to outrun alligators
  • It is difficult to spot an alligator in the water or on land if it’s in a secluded area
  • Alligators watch from above the water but they listen and feel vibrations of prey from below the water
  • Alligators are known to lie on tar roads due to the hot surface
  • Alligators are prevalent all over Florida
  • If bit by an alligator, make a lot of noise, use force, poke eyes
Photo Courtesy of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation

According to the Fish and Wildlife Conservation

  • Alligator diet includes prey that is easy to find and available often
  • Adult alligators eat snakes, turtles, smaller mammals, small birds, large/rough fish
  • Young alligators eat mostly insects, smaller fish, other amphibian creatures/invertebrates
  • Alligators have been known to eat other alligators and dead animals
  • Female alligators typically remain under 10 feet long
  • Male alligators can be much larger than females and over 10 feet in length

Tips

  • Do not feed alligators
  • If taking a photo or looking at an alligator, remain at least 50 feet away in distance
  • Do not swim in areas where it’s a known alligator community
  • Never go near an alligator nest
  • Never touch or go near an alligator on a road even if it looks dead
  • Stay away from water at night and definitely stay away during the breeding season
  • If you’re in fresh or stagnant water (natural or man-made) in Florida, know that alligators could be anywhere

 

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