FORT LAUDERDALE — Unless you want your dog to become a snack, keep Fifi away from the water.
Alligators more actively search for prey as the weather warms. That's when they leave their watery refuges in search of food, mates and nice places to lie in the sun.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission recently urged caution near lakes, rivers, swamps and canals.
It is not specifically because of mating season. The idea that these species are more dangerous simply because it's mating season is a myth, said Lindsey Hord, coordinator of the state's nuisance alligator and crocodile programs.
Contrary to the popular image of the female defending her nest, for example, state scientists have always found it easy to collect egg samples by simply walking up to a nest and taking them, he said.
What does increase the danger, however, is that these cold-blooded animals are just more active during the warm months, now through October. That means people should be careful around the water with children and especially — given that danger increases as size decreases — pets.
"You need to keep your dogs and other pets away from the water," Hord said. "They're just not safe out there."
The danger has grown over the past few years, as the species rebounded. Alligators, once on the endangered-species list, have recovered completely, with an estimated 1.25 million prowling rivers, lakes and canals.
This, of course, is good news for all those who care about nature, but it makes the water's edge a more hazardous place.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission urges people to observe some simple precautions such as keeping children and pets away from water, never feeding alligators and, if you're going fishing, disposing of fish scraps in the garbage, not the water.
For more alligator facts, go to www.myfwc.com/alligator.