Since I wrote about our Everglades bike ride & Gator Eats Turtle experience, I’ve gotten lots of feedback saying that alligators are too dangerous and people should avoid them or risk being attacked and eaten. Hopefully the National Parks Service wouldn’t encourage people to ride bikes around the Shark Valley 15 mile loop with all its gators if they thought it was dangerous. So I did a bit more research.
True, gators are dangerous and quicker than anyone ever anticipates (especially that poor turtle). But the park rangers assured me that they don’t like the taste of human flesh if they have other alternatives. They’ve been renting bikes at Shark Valley a long time, and despite the tram drivers referring to bike riders as “Meals on Wheels”, they’ve never had a gator attack a human in the park. Notice I emphasize IN THE PARK. That’s because the alligators in the park are not fed by humans and therefore don’t associate humans with food.
The New York Daily News reports that Florida may have set a new record going over 5 years without a fatal alligator attack – the last one being in 2007. This doesn’t mean that alligators haven’t attacked people, just that they haven’t killed anyone.
When you encounter an alligator elsewhere there’s no way of knowing what associations that gator has with humans. He might have been fed and therefore, unafraid and willing to attack if hungry. According to the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission:
“Never feed alligators – it’s dangerous and illegal. When fed, alligators can overcome their natural wariness and learn to associate people with food. When this happens, the alligator may have to be removed and killed (not relocated).”
“Since 1948, Florida has averaged about five unprovoked bites per year. During that period, a little more than 300 unprovoked bites to people have been documented in Florida, with 22 resulting in deaths” (but not since 2007).
For a copy of the Florida Fish & Wildlife PDF Alligator Brochure, click here.
According to National Geographic, the American Alligator is a rare success story in that not long ago they were an endangered species … and now they’re everywhere, at least here in south Florida. Typically they eat fish, turtles (poor turtle), snakes and small mammals. They average 10-15 feet long, weigh as much as 1000 pounds and live 35-50 years in the wild. But they may attack humans and pets.
The best thing to do if you spot an alligator is don’t get close and leave them alone. The park rangers told us when they’re laying in the road, we should cross slowly behind the tail end of the gator. In the instances where the tail is in the swamp and the gator is laying half across the road with his amazing jaws smiling at us “the better to eat you with my dear” … it’s best to wait and let him meander on his way before trying to pass.
And never never never be like me and try to get a close photo of an alligator – use a LONG lens instead! 🙂 Of course, in my defense, I was trying to take a photo of the pretty turtle when the gator lunged unseen out of the water and claimed the turtle for dinner. The rest of these photos used a long lens.
Despite lots of time spent in the 10,000 Islands/Everglades National Park waters, we have never seen an alligator while out in our dinghy or even sv Winterlude, except at Manatee Lagoon at Cayo Costa State Park, a barrier island north of Sanibel and Captiva. That doesn’t count the alligator that swims around the boats in the marina infrequently.
Anyone with other tips about alligators? Please leave a comment and share. Here’s to safe alligator viewing! Cheers! Jan