Avoid  Alligators

DON'T FEED ALLIGATORS!

This is a critical law, as feeding alligators threatens the safety of both people and animals.  Providing food for these wild animals (that are naturally afraid of humans) not only makes them bolder and encourages them to seek out people, it also alters their natural diet in an unhealthy way.  Do not feed ducks, turtles or any other animals inhabiting waters with alligators.  This food source attracts the alligators as well, and trains them to associate humans with food.  Lastly, do not clean fish in the water or leave your scraps or bait on the ground, as that is also a potential food source for alligators.  Feeding alligators is punishable by law with fines up to $150 and up to 30 days in jail.

KEEP YOUR DISTANCE

Although they may look slow and awkward, alligators are extremely powerful and can move with a startling burst of speed on land over short distances.  The myth of running in a zig-zag pattern to escape a chasing alligator is unnecessary, as alligators tire quickly and run in a straight line themselves.  It is highly unlikely to be chased by an alligator, but as a precaution, a safe distance from an adult alligator should be maintained at about 6 feet.  If the alligator lunges at you, you're too close.

KEEP YOUR PETS AND CHILDREN AWAY FROM ALLIGATORS

Large alligators do not recognize the difference between domestic pets and wild food sources.  When they are hungry, alligators act on their hunting instinct and might attempt to feed on your house pet, given the opportunity.  Keep your dogs on leashes around alligators.  Do not allow your dogs or children to swim in waters inhabited by alligators, or to drink or play at the water's edge.  To an alligator, a splash potentially means a food source is in the water.

AVOID SWIMMING IN AREAS THAT ARE KNOWN ALLIGATOR HABITAT

At the very least, never swim alone.  Always be careful around water.  Splashing can attract alligators that think a prey animal is injured.  They may act on instinct and attack.  Or a protective female may believe her young or eggs are threatened and take defensive action.  Be cautious when fishing in waters with alligators, as some will not hesitate to grab a hooked fish or eat the fish on a string.  Avoid heavy vegetation in and near the water's edge, as alligators use these areas to bask or ambush prey.

Alligators are fascinating creatures and should be enjoyed as part of the natural beauty of our region.  But remember that they are wild animals, and should be respected as such.  Once they become too familiar with people, they lose their fear of humans, necessitating their removal from the area for the safety of all concerned.  A few precautions on our part can help humans and alligators co-exist safely.