About Florida: Safety tips for alligators and crocodiles

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Florida alligator  (credit: National Park Service)

Florida alligator (credit: National Park Service)

How to stay safe if you encounter an alligator on your Florida vacation

Alligators are found throughout Florida, from wetlands and swamps to rivers and lakes; the Everglades to Lake Okeechobee. A vital component of Florida’s ecosystem, they play a key role in wetland ecology and keeping aquatic animal populations in check. Since alligators are a predatory animal, precautionary measures are necessary, especially when weather warms in the spring and mating season starts in the summer. Each year, there are reports of alligator attacks – here are tips to keep you safe:

Safety Tips

  • if you’re watching or photographing an alligator, do it from a distance – they are a wild animal.
  • don’t feed alligators – it’s illegal as well as dangerous. If an alligator is fed, they associate people with food – not a safe combination.
  • don’t throw fish scraps in the water but rather place them in garbage cans – although you’re not directly feeding alligators, the same result as above applies.
  • don’t swim outside of a posted swimming area, with your pet, or in waters that are inhabited by large alligators. And most of all, don’t swim at night (between dusk and dawn) when alligators are most active.
  • dogs and cats are the same size as an alligator’s natural prey. Don’t let pets swim, run or drink in or near waters that may be inhabited by alligators.
  • alligators are mostly found in fresh or brackish water – be aware when working or recreating.
  • don’t harass or possess an alligator – it’s prohibited by law and even small alligators can cause injury.

Months for extra caution

Warm weather months, from March to Octobers is a time to be extra cautious as people like to be in the water and alligators are still feeding. Courtship for alligators starts in early April, and mating begins during May and June. After that females build their nests in late June or early July and hatching occurs after a 60-day incubation period during August or early September.

The Species

Florida has two native crocodilians. The American alligator lives throughout Florida, and the less common American crocodile lies in the Keys, Southeast and Southwest Florida along coastal areas.

Tell us…

How close did you ever get to an alligator?