Fiol Law Group|Posted in Safety on October 13, 2017
Last summer, the nation woke to news of a tragic story. A toddler, while on vacation with his parents at Walt Disney World, had been attacked by an alligator. While his mom and dad did all they could to get their boy back, the alligator pulled him underwater, and he drowned.
While these events are uncommon, the fact that this happened in one of the nation’s busiest resorts reminds us that alligators are fairly common in the lakes and rivers of Florida, they are still wild animals and should be treated with an abundance of caution. How can you prevent alligator attacks on your vacation? We have some safety tips:
1. Know the Risks
Thankfully, serious injuries involving alligators are uncommon – in fact, you’re statistically more likely to be struck by lightning or win the lottery. However, those odds change a bit when you live in swampy areas. Alligators are large, carnivorous predators that require a cautious approach.
2. Don’t Feed Them
Some people have become so accustomed to seeing alligators that they feed them. This is a mistake, as it threatens both the safety of the animals and the people. Feeding alligators emboldens them and habituates them to humans. The same applies to feeding ducks, turtles, and any other animals that share waters with alligators; the hope of food could bring them to the shores. Florida law prohibits feeding alligators – it’s a misdemeanor that carries a stiff $500 penalty.
3. Keep a Safe Distance
Alligators can seem slow and cumbersome, but they are powerful animals that move very quickly over short distances The University of Georgia Department of Herpetology recommends staying at least 60 feet away from an alligator to maintain safety.
4. Don’t Move Alligators Out of the Road
In Florida, one of the places you’re most likely to encounter alligators is when they’re crossing the road. Leave them alone, be patient, and allow them time to pass. You’re most likely to encounter them in the spring and summer, as this is their breeding season.
5. Don’t Swim in Known Alligator Habitats
Alligators are wild animals who act on instinct. Splashing, even near the shore, may indicate to an alligator that injured prey is nearby. They will act on this instinct by dragging that “prey” – whether it’s a child or a pet – into deeper waters. Also, be cautious when fishing in waters known for alligators.
6. Report Dangerous Alligators to the Appropriate Authorities
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission collect dangerous alligators through their Statewide Nuisance Alligator Program (SNAP). If you have concerns about an alligator near your hotel, home, or other residence, notify SNAP. Generally, SNAP deems an alligator a nuisance if it exceeds four feet in length and the caller believes it poses a threat to people or animals. Call the hotline at 866-FWC-GATOR (866-392-4286).
Practicing basic alligator safety is essential on vacation – while alligator attacks are rare, they can happen. With a few basic preventive practices, you can enjoy your trip without having to worry about the dangers of alligators. Observe these tips and remember – alligators naturally avoid people. Keep your distance and both you and your loved ones will be safe.