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When Alligators Arrive

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Living in South Florida can expose you to a fair amount of ‘nuisance animals’ such as relatively harmless raccoons or opossums. Nuisance wildlife is generally defined as wildlife that causes or has the capacity to cause property damage, or that presents a threat to public safety under or near a public building. However, sometimes ‘nuisance animals’ can extend well past furry nighttime bandits and into far more dangerous territory – alligators.

While generally shy of humans, the state’s indigenous reptiles represent a significant threat to people, and with real estate development encroaching more and more on their native habitats, it is important for people to learn basic safety procedures around these creatures.

The following agencies monitor Florida’s reptiles: The Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, the Division of Hunting and Game Management, the Division of Habitat and Species Conservation, the Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management, the Division of Marine Fisheries Management, and the Division of Law Enforcement.

Alligators can appear in residential areas for several reasons. Environmental factors such as a condo development being built in proximity to nesting areas, or even a recent storm or flood could very well be the reasons. Sometimes, people raise alligators as pets by abandon them once they reach an unmanageable size.

According to wildlife experts, human fatalities involving alligator attacks average out to one every other year in the state. Non-fatal attacks average in the teens annually. The FRC’s figures back this up; even though the state averages about seven unprovoked alligator attacks per year – a rate that has been increasing about 3 percent a year – the likelihood of a human being seriously injured in a random attack is roughly one in 2.4 million.

Aside from the most important reason for not approaching or harassing an alligator, which is of course safety, there are also laws in place that deal specifically with how to handle nuisance wildlife, as well as specific licensing requirements for professionals who deal with specific kinds of animals. A state licensed trapper can be dispatched to capture and remove gators who wander too far into human territory. Most trappers use a snare or a noose attached to a long pole to capture the animal without having to get too close to its jaws. Once subdued, the animal’s snout is usually taped securely shut, and the alligator is wrangled into a metal box for transport off the property. According to animal control pros, whether the alligator is relocated or destroyed is often a matter of its size. An alligator of up to three or four feet may be successfully relocated to a remote area; larger gators will almost always be destroyed, as they’re simply too dangerous to risk letting them wander right back into trouble.

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