Everything you need to know to stay safe during alligator breeding season
Coexistence with alligators? It might sound crazy to outsiders, but for Floridians it’s just another part of life.
May marks the start of alligator nesting season. This is an important time to stay alert and use your best judgment when in or near local waterways.
Wild Florida’s Sam Haught shared the following tips for staying safe.
Wild Florida Hosts Gator Week and offers free entry to Gator Park for guests who donate any amount to the Wild Florida Scholarship Fund for Osceola County students. Additionally, as the founder of National Alligator Day on May 29th, Wild Florida will celebrate this special day at the end of Gator Week
1. In general, be careful, especially at this time of year.
Be mindful of the bodies of water you are in or near – and stay away from areas where a large alligator roams or is protecting a particular part of the swamp.
It’s a mother alligator’s protective nature to stay until after her babies hatch, even for a year or so, which means you should give her some space.
“It’s a tough time for a lot of alligators because they go into nesting mode, people get scared and (some people will) call a trapper to have the alligator removed,” Haught said. “Then all the hard work that the mother put into building the nest and hatching will be for nothing because the eggs will spoil, be eaten or killed.”
This is NOT an ideal situation.
It would be far better if people gave the alligators space and just exercised caution and common sense as to where these large animals nest at this time of year.
“We want people to be alert and not freak out when they see an alligator protecting themselves during this time because this is their home,” Haught added. “It ends up being a great loss when an alligator is drawn.”
2. Look around.
This may sound similar to the first point on our list, but it’s worth repeating: be aware. look around Check your surroundings.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s day or night, if you get too close to a nest, the mother will come at you, and it won’t be good,” Haught said.
Haught can’t even offer advice like, “Don’t go swimming at night,” he said, because a) it’s usually not a good idea anyway, but more importantly, b) if you kayak, boat, jet ski, or do anything Anything too close to an alligator’s nest, any time of the day, is a recipe for trouble.
And almost every body of water in Florida has alligators or the potential for alligators. These animals are almost everywhere.
“That’s a good thing,” Haught said. “That shouldn’t scare anyone. It’s an incredible story that we still have these amazing predators in the wild – not all confined to a park, zoo or cage.”
3. Stay away from swampy areas.
Sometimes aggressive and protective of their nests in the late spring and summer months, mother alligators are often in their natural habitat. If you see a pond or body of water with a lot of swampy, grassy areas, you should avoid it. When these mothers build their nests, they look for secluded areas with vegetation, Haught said, adding that they want privacy and know better than to “park right next to a swing set in a playground.”
They’re not stupid animals – they know they’ll be spending a lot of time here, which is why they choose this swampy, remote spot.
So why is it important to know all this?
“You could wakeboard behind your boat and crash near the weed line and end up near an alligator’s nest,” Haught said. “This is definitely something you should avoid. Stay away from swampy areas. Try to be more in open water. I would not dig in these more remote areas at this time of year.”
I don’t mean to point out the dangers of alligators, but think of a 14 foot alligator with all that artillery and power – it can hide virtually undetected in about 2 feet of water. We have about 1.5 million alligators in the state, especially around central Florida, and the population is growing. We must figure out how best to share our space with these animals.
It’s worth noting that when an alligator lands in a more visible, outdoor area — like a detention pond, neighborhood park, or pond — most of them aren’t nesting animals, Haught said. They’re just curious, inquiring alligators being chased away or looking for a mate. They should not be viewed as a threat.
“We only have development on their way,” Haught said.
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