How do you protect yourself from an alligator attack in Florida? It’s a question many are wondering after the tragic attack of a toddler by an alligator at Disney World. Are the waterways in Florida safe?
Are There Alligators Everywhere in Florida?
Yes, alligators live in all 67 counties of Florida, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
According to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), there are an estimated 1,300,000 alligators in Florida. Yes, that number is one million.
Alligators live in fresh and brackish (mix of salt water and fresh water) waters everywhere in Florida. It does not matter if that water is in the wilderness, a lake at a tourist attraction or resort, or the retention pond in your house’s subdivision.
You should always assume that there are gators in any body of water in Florida.
Floridians have 1 in 3.1 million chance to be seriously injured by an alligator attack, according to FWC.
Alligators in Ponds
A majority of housing in Florida is built in subdivisions that have retention ponds. Just because the pond is in a neighborhood does not mean that it won’t contain alligators!
This is a problem in my own subdivision, where we have repeatedly seen alligators in those tiny retention ponds, either in the water or, more often, basking on the banks nearby.
This is very important to know for Florida residents who walk their dogs by the ponds, as well as anyone renting a vacation house in Florida. Even friends and family staying at your home in Florida need to be reminded of this because they probably don’t know.
These gators don’t know that these ponds are where children ride bikes on the sidewalk nearby, where pet owners walk their tiny dogs or where runners are getting in their exercise.
These are wild, dangerous animals and this is where they have chosen to live. Sure, they can be removed. But that means that someone needs to spot one and/or have an encounter with one first.
Alligators are naturally scared of humans, however they are wild animals hunting for food, so they will do what they got to do. Also, alligators that have been fed food by humans lose their innate fear and soon associate humans with food.
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How to Avoid Alligators in Florida
While you can never completely avoid the chance of an alligator encounter in Florida, these important tips will help keep you protected:
- Always assume that an encounter with an alligator is possible. Especially if you are near water, or if you are in nature and a body of water is relatively nearby.
- Scan the shoreline of any body of water for alligators, whether big or small, that could look like a rock or otherwise be hiding in plain sight.
- Look all around to make sure that an alligator isn’t sunning itself somewhere on the banks.
- Look over the water or pond. Do you see a bulge in the water? Sometimes it’s just a turtle. But a lot of the times it can be an alligator head sticking up, with just the eyes visible. Or the backside of their tail.
- Do not be in the water between dusk and dawn. These are prime time for alligator feedings. This is prime time for any wildlife feedings. They are hunting and gathering for food in these early and late night hours.
- Do not allow children or even dogs to play at the shoreline of a body of water unsupervised.
- No swimming signs and alligator signs are posted for a reason. They are not put up near bodies of water to keep you from having fun. They were posted because of a valid concern.
- DO NOT try to get close so that you can get a picture. Seriously. These are wild animals, no different than getting up close to a bison in a national park to get a photo. They attack and they charge at a moment’s notice. They are not audio-animatronics.
- Being in Florida means that there could always be a gator in a random place. Residents have walked out onto their back porch to find one. They routinely walk through golf courses, like this huge alligator seen below! It is not a common occurrence, but it’s not rare, either.
What To Do If An Alligator Attacks
Alligators don’t attack people as much as you might think.
There are about 8 unprovoked alligator attacks in Florida each year that are severe enough to warrant medical attention.
According to FWC, if an alligator attacks you, make as much noise and commotion as possible.
Hit the alligator or kick it – ESPECIALLY on the snout or in its eyes – the most sensitive parts on an alligator.
If bitten – even if only a slight bite – always get medical attention afterwards.
How To Safely See Alligators
In the Orlando area, there are lots of ways to safely see alligators for great photo opportunities – and to say you have seen a Florida alligator. Here are some great ideas:
- Orlando Explorer Pass – Includes admission to Gatorland (the Alligator Capital of the World) and Boggy Creek Airboats for more alligator encounters than you can imagine.
- Gatorland – Everything alligators. Seriously, EVERYTHING!
- Feed an Alligator – At Wild Florida, this unique behind-the-scenes tour only through Viator will let you feed an alligator and take a picture for proof!