Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Lions and tigers and alligators, oh my!

Warm weather welcomes alligators

By ANA GONI–LESSAN, Alligator Contributing Writer
People jogging around Lake Alice have more to worry about than a sunburn now that the weather is warming up.

Alligators in north Florida come out of hibernation in March, said Tony Young, the media relations coordinator for The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

“They’re hungry, they’re looking for food and mating season is just around the corner,” Young said. “You just need to be aware.”

Young said that male alligators become more aggressive around mating season.

Parents with small children should not let them play near water without supervision, he said. Dogs are also at risk.

“Dogs are definitely some of the favorite prey of alligators,” Young said.

Brandon Moore, a UF biology graduate student who has studied alligators for seven years, said there are two important rules to remain safe while in the presence of alligators.

“Never feed an alligator, ever,” Moore said.

Alligators have a natural disposition to move away when approached by people, but this can change when they’re fed.

Also, give the alligator distance, he said, and let it go about its way.

If people find themselves in a threatening situation, they should move away slowly and quietly.

“Running is rarely a good thing to do in the wild,” Moore said. Running makes a person look like prey, which can provoke the animal.

Since 1948, there have been more than 275 unprovoked attacks in Florida, and 17 people have been killed, according to an alligator safety brochure on the commission’s Web site.

The first alligator attack of the year happened in Lake Worth in January, when an alligator injured a man’s hand and pulled him under water, according to an article in the Palm Beach Post.

Joe Fiore, a UF alumnus, visits Lake Alice to unwind after work and sees people feeding the turtles.

He said he thinks that the alligators aren’t afraid of people because of it.

“It’s not good for them,” he said. “Just let them be.”

Story found here at The Independent Florida Alligator Web Site

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