FORT MEADE, Fla (WFLA) – Officials are reminding the public to use caution around wildlife after a man was found dead near an American alligator.
And while officials haven’t confirmed yet if the alligator was involved in the man’s death, authorities are certainly not ruling it out.
With summer being alligator mating season, the usually docile reptile becomes more territorial, experts say.
An estimated 5 million American alligators gators live in the southeastern United States, and about 1.3 million of them live in Florida.
According to 2017 reports from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the likelihood of being seriously hurt from an “unprovoked alligator incident in Florida is roughly only one in 3.2 million.”
According to the FWC, there have been 401 documented alligator bites in the Florida since 1948, and 23 of those were fatal attacks.
Statistics from the FWC show an increase in the number of alligator bites suffered by humans since gators came off the endangered species list in 1987.
Alligator attacks have increased from about six each year in 1971 to about 10 per year from 1987 through 2017, according to the FWC, and scientists believe it’s partially due to development.
Between 2012 and 2016, FWC received an average of 15,000 nuisance alligator complaints annually, leading to the removal of more than 7,000 gators each year.
Last summer, two people nationally were fatally attacked by alligators. Only one was in Florida.
The gator assumed to be involved with the man’s death was shot and killed by FWC and taken to the Medical Examiner’s Office with the man’s body, officials said.
“Anywhere there is standing water, an alligator might be found. ” said Melody Kilborn, Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesperson.” Alligators are most active and visible when the weather is warm, and in some places in Florida, that can occur year round. Anytime the weather is warm, Floridians and visitors should take precautionary measures when near the water to reduce the chances of conflicts with alligators. “