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How to stay safe and avoid alligator attacks in Florida

The state has a healthy and stable population of about 1.3 million alligators of every size. Here’s how to respect their habitat.
A small alligator lies still on the surface of an algae-covered pond at the Florida Botanical Gardens, Monday, Feb. 22, 2021 in Largo.
A small alligator lies still on the surface of an algae-covered pond at the Florida Botanical Gardens, Monday, Feb. 22, 2021 in Largo. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]
Published Aug. 26, 2022|Updated Aug. 26, 2022

Alligators are part of Florida’s natural habitat. This means they can be found, without exception, in all 67 counties and in different spaces: rivers, retention ponds, lakes and golf greens. Even in saltwater.

The good news: They are naturally afraid of humans, and alligator attacks are rare.

So, how can we live in peace with these animals?

Here are some tips from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission:

Related: ‘I never saw the alligator.’ How a Tampa Bay man survived vicious attack.

Keep your distance

Pay close attention to your surroundings and always leave alligators alone. This is probably one of the simplest and most practical recommendations to follow. Remember: if you are cautious and maintain your distance from an alligator, you’ll be safe.

Don’t feed them

It’s illegal to feed alligators. Also, it is counterproductive for the animal itself and your safety. Experts say when you feed alligators, they overcome their natural wariness and associate people with food. In rare instances, alligators can bite people for other reasons, like to protect their nests.

Think before you dump waste into water

If you are fishing, dispose of scraps in garbage cans. Do not throw them in the water because you could be feeding an alligator.

Your home is not their habitat

Don’t remove an alligator from its natural environment. Alligators are perfectly happy in their habitats. They are not pets, like dogs or cats. For this reason, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has another recommendation: Never accept an alligator as a pet.

Planning to go swimming? Not so fast.

If you are planning to swim, never do it outside of posted designated areas. Do it during daylight hours. Alligators are most active between dusk and dawn. If you are with kids, closely supervise them when they are playing in or around water. Don’t let dogs play or swim in water where alligators may live. Dogs resemble alligators’ natural prey.

What to do if an alligator poses a threat

If you see an alligator that is posing a threat to humans or pets, call the conservation commission’s nuisance alligator hotline at 1‐866‐392‐4286. Trappers will remove alligators that are 4 feet long or more if they pose a threat.