View Full Version : Interesting Article Regarding Florida & Alligators

Julie Moore
09-19-2003, 06:38 PM
What You Can and Can't Do Regarding Gators in Florida (An interview with officials at the Florida Fish and Wildlife conservation Commission and additional research).

The Newark Star-Ledger, (Lakeland, Florida) 7/19/03

After an alligator attacked and killed a 12-yearold boy in Lake
County on June 18, the state reptile's merits and demerits became a matter of heated public debate. The issue arose in Polk County this week when the State Attorney's Office decided to drop charges against a Lake Wales man who shot an alligator in
his yard in March. As the debate continues, The Ledger decided to provide more information about alligators in a question-and-answer format, based upon interviews with officials at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and additional research.

Q. What are the alligator laws?
A. Under Florida law, it is illegal to kill, injure, capture,
possess an alligator or its eggs or to attempt to do any of those things without a permit. In addition, the law allows wildlife officials to seize any weapons, vehicles or other equipment used in the violation following a successful conviction in the case. It also is illegal to feed alligators (except at zoos, etc.). It also is illegal to possess alligator parts, such as skins or teeth, that have been obtained illegally.

Q. Are there circumstances in which I would be justified in shooting an alligator in my yard?
A. Yes, in a case of selfdefense. However, if you were not armed at the time you saw the alligator, but got a weapon and returned to shoot the alligator, you could not claim self-defense.

Q. If that's true, why wasn't the Lake Wales man who shot the
alligator prosecuted?
A. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission filed
charges, but the State Attorney's Office refused to prosecute the case, citing "extenuating circumstances" concerning the disputed facts in the case as to whether the alligator was a threat. Wildlife officials disagreed with the decision.

Q. Why are alligators protected?
A. Alligators are protected because they are an important part of
Florida's freshwater ecosystems. Their numbers were seriously
depleted by unrestricted hunting during the first half of the 20th century. They are classified as a species of special concern by the state and a threatened species by federal authorities, partly because they look similar to American crocodiles, which are an endangered species.

Q. How many alligators are in Florida today?
A. Wildlife officials estimate the population of adult alligators at
between 1 million and 1.5 million. Biologists estimate the population was about half that when alligators became a protected species.

Q. If there are that many of them, how come they're still protected?
A. Because wildlife officials want to maintain a sustainable
population to prevent these reptiles from declining. Wildlife officials say the current number is optimal.

Q. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission issues
hunting permits every year for people to hunt and kill alligators. Isn't that inconsistent with protection?
A. No. The alligator hunts, on the other hand, are planned for
specific locations in the state and the permit numbers are based on what wildlife officials consider a sustainable harvest. The people involved are licensed and supervised. This year permits are being offered to 2,687 trappers to kill up to two each or 1,374 alligators. Last year, the state issued 1,549 permits to kill up to 3,098. When the program began in 1988, 230 trappers
killed 2,912 alligators.

Q. When was the trapper program established?
A. The agency began the program 23 years ago and has received 255,149 complaints, resulting in the killing of 106,257 alligators. Last year, in the 11county region that includes Polk County, there were 4,596 complaints, resulting in 1,827 alligators killed.

Q. What is the role of trappers?
A. Trappers are licensed by the agency and are on call 24 hours a
day, seven days a week to deal with nuisance alligator complaints.

Q. If people can hunt alligators on lakes, why can't I shoot one in
my back yard?
A. Because it's against the law. Allowing anyone to shoot alligators would open the door to indiscriminate killing of these animals. In addition, there are safety issues with discharging firearms.

Q. If I can't shoot it, what should I do if I see an alligator in my
A. First, don't approach or try to capture an alligator. That is
illegal and dangerous. Second, leave it alone and see if it leaves of its own accord. If the alligator remains on your property, call toll-free 888-404-3922. If the dispatcher determines it is an emergency -- an alligator acting aggressively and threatening people -- wildlife officials will dispatch a licensed trapper immediately to deal with the animal. In nonemergency situations, a trapper will be contacted but will not necessarily respond immediately.

Q. Did the case this year in Lake Wales in which an alligator was
reportedly hissing at a homeowner's dog merit an emergency response?
A. Yes, an emergency response may have been justified, but the
homeowner didn't call.

Q. Are all of the calls valid?
A. No. Many people overestimate the size or the aggressiveness of alligators and are simply uncomfortable even seeing an alligator. There is no way for trappers to know whether the call is frivolous until they respond.

Q. By the way, what is an alligator doing in my yard in the first
A. Most of the "nuisance" alligator reports involve alligators that
are less than 5 feet long. These are alligators that have been chased away from their normal haunts by nesting females trying to protect their offspring and are looking for another body of water where they can live in peace.

Q. Are alligator complaints increasing?
A. Yes. Complaints have increased from 5,000 a year in 1978 when the nuisance alligator program began. In 2002, wildlife officials handled 14,738 complaints.

Q. Why have complaints increased?
A. For a couple of reasons. First, Florida's human population is now about 16.3 million, up from only 6.2 million when alligators were first classified as a protected species in 1967. Many of these new residents are living in or near alligator habitats, so the encounters shouldn't be surprising. Second, more tourists are visiting Florida in the summer, which is the time when alligators are most active. Many tourists are unfamiliar with alligators and more likely to either be frightened by them or to be unaware of their danger and to be injured.

Q. How often are people bitten by alligators?
A. Since 1948, when state wildlife officials began keeping records,
there have been 323 documented alligator "attacks," 12 of which have been fatal. Most of the incidents have involved people who tried to handle or capture alligators. Fatal attacks, the first of which happened in 1973, generally occur in summer. The only fatal attack in Polk County occurred June 23, 2001, when a 2-year-old girl was killed on Lake Cannon on the Winter Haven
Chain of Lakes.

Q. What are the most common circumstances for alligator attacks?
A. Swimming is the most common, followed by attempting to capture or scare away an alligator, fishing and diving for golf balls.

Q. What can I do to avoid being bitten?
A. Never approach an alligator, even if you think it is dead. Also,
don't swim alone or at night, dusk or dawn when alligators are hunting for food. Don't throw or leave fish scraps in the water or near shore. Be alert for the presence of alligators, and be sure to watch children and pets when they are in or near water bodies.

Q. Where can I get more information on alligators?
A. Free brochures are available at the Florida Fish and Wildlife
Commission office at 4900 Drane Field Road in Lakeland. Information also is available on the Web at www.wildflorida.org/gators

09-22-2003, 10:30 AM
I like the part where Alligators are still listed as threatened due to similarities with Crocodiles........LOL's!!! They are still listed due to the need to regulate trade in them. Nice question....Why the increase in complaints...Duh! Gator's breed...people breed....people move to gator's habitat.... Rocket science there! Florida needs to hand out info pamplets to all people moving into the state. Don't feed them won't be a problem! Also, these little guys have to go somewhere.. it's not females protecting nest sites, it's big bulls that will eat the smaller ones. We had a 13 footer killed last year in PSL because it was considered a potential danger. Didn't cause any problems...Just liked to sun and scared the hell out of the Yankee's! A shame. If you move to Florida keep in mind yes Victoria, we have snakes, alligators and big bugs!!! Deal with it! Knowledge is a terrible weapon!