Thursday, September 21, 2017

Summertime is alligator time in SWFL


By: Ariel Long

Southwest Florida is known for a wealth of natural beauty for residents and visitors alike to explore. But sometimes, though rarely, nature can bare its teeth.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida is the home of a healthy and stable alligator population, of an estimated 1.3 million. As temperatures rise, alligators become more active in their search for food.

“Especially this time of year, it’s important to be mindful that any body of water could possibly have an alligator in it,” FWC spokesman Brian Norris said.

Last week saw a trio of alligator related incidents, including one in San Carlos Park was a woman was bitten by an alligator while in her backyard.

“Alligators typically have a natural fear of humans, so they’re not going to approach you. What we find is sometimes people will feed the alligators [and] want to get some photographs [but] that’s when the alligators start to lose their natural fear of humans. They may start to approach people [and] that’s when it becomes a nuisance alligator.”

FWC responds to alerts from police, deputies, or the local community if there are sightings of alligators within the areas. They recently assisted the Lee County Sheriff’s Office in the arrest of a man who illegally captured an alligator, Norris said.

As alligator sightings become more frequent, FWC advises the public to enroll in their Statewide Nuisance Alligator Program to focus on the complaints and concerns of alligators as they become a threat to people, animals, or their property. The public can also contact the FWC toll-free Nuisance Alligator Hotline at 866-FWC-GATOR (866-392-4286) for immediate help as well.

Florida Gulf Coast University has become known for housing a few alligators in the different bodies of waters located on campus. Signs are placed within eyesight to allow visitors, students, faculty and staff members awareness that an alligator could potentially reside within the area.

“On campus, the only reason why we see them is because they are looking for a warm place to sunbathe or they are moving from one source of water to another,”  Myles Kittleson, an officer with FGCU’s University Police Department said. “Our campus doesn’t have a lot of options for alligators to go to, especially where we can’t bother them. We need to remember that they were here first and we need to respect their natural habitat.”

Kittleson said UPD informs students that the signs in front of the bodies of water can house an alligator within it and tampering with them is a crime. Most students respect their habitats and leave the alligators alone, however, some do not take the signs seriously.

On April 1, a group of students found an alligator carcass off campus grounds and decided to bring it back to their South Village dorm rooms. The students took photos of the carcass and UPD received word that the dead animal was circulating within the halls of South Village. FWC was immediately contacted, both UPD and FWC appeared to the students’ dorm room, confiscating the carcass, and awarded the students warnings for possession of a wild animal.

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