KISSIMMEE, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - Keep your distance on Florida waters, because it seems more alligators and humans have been crossing paths in recent years.
According to a new report by Inside Science, alligator attacks have gone from one every three or so years between 1988 and 1999 to an average of seven per year in the state during the last 17 years.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission report higher bite counts but also show much larger numbers as the years have gone on with 11 of the last 18 years hitting double digit bite counts. Experts say the increase isn’t all that surprising though.
Gators have surged from endangered in the state decades ago to now being all over the place. They’re not the only surging population at that.
Gatorland Park Director Mike Hileman said Florida’s growth in population has put people a lot closer to the water-dwelling natives.
"The more that people influx into Florida, there's only so much space, and alligators live here. They were here before us; we're in their back yard,” said Hileman.
Hileman said bites are going to happen when the two populations find themselves face-to-face more and more often. He said alligators are generally not aggressive though and pay little interest to people as long as they keep their distance.
That’s extra important right now, he said, when it’s hatching season. In fact dozens of new gator eggs were hatching at Gatorland Monday morning as Labor Day crowds filled the park to learn about the reptiles.
Hileman said it’s not the tiny new teeth Floridians have to worry about encountering in the wild: it’s the big ones that are likely not far behind.
"You gotta watch out for mamas, cause they're good moms,” said Hileman. “They run off and get anything that comes around and unfortunately that includes people."
So, he suggests what they teach daily at Gatorland: keep your distance, respect the gators, and don’t feed them.