TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — One of Florida’s staple news exports, gator incidents, have racked up a whole lot of headlines lately. Some of the events involving the state’s scaly residents have been innocuous, taking a dip in a family pool, while others have been more tragic. WFLA.com has now learned that there are 16 investigations of alligator incidents currently underway.
The state of Florida has been tracking alligator attacks on residents since 1948. Since they began tracking the attacks, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reports there have been 442 confirmed attacks by alligators on humans in the state, and 26 fatalities.
While the current year’s number of attacks has yet to be published, we’re only in July, a recent spate of gator has brought Florida’s scaly residents into the news on several days in the past week.
In just the past month, gators attacked and killed a woman at a Sarasota golf course, bit a man in another Sarasota County incident, roared at deputies in Charlotte County, temporarily closed a park in Mt. Dora, attacked a Lakewood Ranch man, eaten a dog at a park in Tallahassee, bit a man’s leg in North Port, ate part of a man in Largo while he tried to recover frisbees at Taylor Lake, and got into a spat with Sarasota law enforcement.
Just like Florida man stories, there are plenty more tales from across the state.
FWC would not say how many cases of gator attacks had been confirmed for 2022 so far, saying that the information won’t be available until some time next year due to ongoing investigations.
“To date this year, 16 alligator bite incidents have been reported to the FWC, however, efforts to thoroughly analyze each incident to determine whether an alligator was actually involved and if it was provoked or unprovoked is ongoing,” according to FWC. “In addition, there are a number of ongoing investigations and once they are complete, an incident summary report for each will be available. In 2021, a total of 21 bite incidents were reported to the FWC and 9 were determined to involve an alligator and be unprovoked.”
The gator attack data does not include attacks on pets or other animals. In 2021 there were just nine attacks total, and none were fatal.
The state wildlife agency splits the gator attack data which is available into three categories, and says all attacks in it are considered unprovoked.
- Unprovoked bites are defined as bites on people by wild alligators, which were not provoked by handling or intentional harassment.
- Major bites are those in which the victims’ injuries required medical care, beyond first aid, to treat wounds.
- Minor bites are those in which the victims’ injuries were superficial and required no treatment or only first aid.
FWC said serious injuries from alligators are rare in the state, and there’s a public safety program to deal with potential alligator threats.
According to a spokesperson for the Commission, the state “administers a Statewide Nuisance Alligator Program (SNAP). The goal of SNAP is to proactively address alligator threats in developed areas, while conserving alligators in areas where they naturally occur.”
When alligators “pose a threat to people, pets or property,” FWC contracts nuisance alligator trappers through the SNAP program to remove them.
The spring and summer months are the part of the year when alligators “become more active,” according to FWC. With the higher heat, gator metabolism increases and they come out more looking for food. The commission has a set of tips to following if you see a gator in or near the water and want to lower the risk of “conflict”:
- Keep a safe distance if you see an alligator. If someone is concerned about an alligator, they should call FWC’s toll-free Nuisance Alligator Hotline at 866-FWC-GATOR (866-392-4286), and we will dispatch a contracted nuisance alligator trapper to resolve the situation.
- Keep pets on a leash and away from the water’s edge. Pets often resemble alligators’ natural prey.
- Swim only in designated swimming areas during daylight hours and without your pet. Alligators are most active between dusk and dawn.
- Never feed an alligator. Feeding alligators is illegal and dangerous. When fed, alligators can lose their natural wariness people and instead learn to associate people with the availability of food.
Florida’s gator conservation efforts have been a big success according to FWC. The commission previously said the state’s alligator population has grown to 1.3 million. Part of that conservation effort has been hunting season and permits across the state.
The alligator hunting season is still going, and Floridians thinking over applying for permits have until Oct. 14 to try and get one. Applications can be submitted online or in person. Alligator mating season ended in June and now it’s almost hatching season. FWC said eggs will hatch from mid-August to early September.
Learn more about gators here: