Animals that become a nuisance or threat to humans usually end up being destroyed, so if you love animals and wildlife, it best to observe from a distance. In lakes, American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) are of particular concern to many residents. To avoid confrontations always be aware of your surroundings when on or near waterways, and avoid densely overgrown areas. If you come across an alligator in the wild, you should calmly move away from the area. Feeding alligators any time of the year is illegal and dangerous. Feeding causes the animals to lose their natural fear of humans, and increases the frequency and severity of aggressive behavior.
During the months of spring, residents should be aware that alligators will become more active in area lakes as they begin mating and nesting. Alligators typically breed from April through June, and can become more aggressive during this period than they are the rest of the year. Males become increasingly territorial as the breeding season approaches, and often travel from lake to lake in search of mates. A large alligator can cover as much as twenty miles over land in a night, showing up unexpectedly in lakes that did not previously have any alligators. Most alligator aggression is channeled into threat displays intended to scare away potential rivals rather than into physical attacks. Male threat displays include raising their tail out of the water and/or bellowing (a low frequency growl that often causes the water around them to vibrate vigorously). Female alligators that are guarding nests or young often will open their mouths to warn off anyone who gets too close, and may even run out of the water with their mouths open to scare off intruders. Alligators that are cornered, or feel physically threatened, may hiss loudly. This hissing often precedes a defensive attack.
Dogs and cats are similar in size to the natural prey of alligators. Therefore, allowing pets to swim, exercise, or drink in areas that may contain alligators is a risk to their safety. In addition, do not swim with your dog as swimming dogs often attract the interest of hungry alligators.
Alligators that threaten humans or pets, or do not exhibit fear of people (do not leave an area when people approach, or actually come closer) should be reported to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. State law prohibits the killing, harassing, feeding, handling, or possession of alligators. The nuisance alligator hotline number is 866-392-4286 (866-FWC-GATOR). Please be aware that alligators removed under this program are typically destroyed, and that larger animals may be killed on site for safety reasons.
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