TAMPA, Fla. - Florida’s waterways are inviting, but they’re also home to wildlife that can be dangerous if you aren’t careful.
In the last two weeks, there have been two alligator attacks in the Tampa Bay area. A gator bit a diver swimming in the Myakka River, and then one attacked a woman while she walked her dog in Palm Harbor.
"Alligators, in particular, they can be anywhere. They can be walking the street, down the sidewalk, in your garage. You got a doggy door, they could be sitting in your living chair," said alligator hunting guide Captain Phil Walters, of GatorGuides.com.
Walters said everyone should the basics to stay safe.
"The biggest thing is: just be aware of your surroundings. If you’re aware of your surroundings and not aloof, you’ll eliminate 99.9 percent of the problems you’ll run into with our wildlife," said Walters.
Wildlife guides said to be careful going near water, especially with children and pets. They said alligators see them as the right size for the food they eat.
"Anything waist-high or smaller, alligators consider food. They’re eating small hogs, possums, raccoons, birds. It’s waist-high or less," said Walters.
Alligators are also more active at night, but licensed trapper Robb Upthegrove said we’re likely to see them pop up in the daytime too.
"We’re in mating season right now, so alligators are transient. They’re looking for a mate," said Upthegrove, of American Wildlife Group. "So what you have to do, you really have to be aware. They may come in your environment right now. Most of the time they’ve going to move on."
If you see one, do not feed the gator. It seems like common sense, but wildlife experts say people still do it. Florida Fish and Wildlife said serious injuries from alligators are rare, but getting too close to a gator could be dangerous.
"You need to treat it as wildlife. It’s not a pet, no matter what you see on TV. It’s never going to be cuddly, and it has an environment that it protects," Upthegrove added.
FWC provided the following safety tips when it comes to alligators:
Generally, alligators less than 4 feet in length are not large enough to be dangerous unless handled. However, if you encounter any alligator that you believe poses a threat to people, pets or property, call the Nuisance Alligator Hotline at 866-FWCGATOR (866-392-4286). Please be aware, nuisance alligators are killed, not relocated.
Be aware of the possibility of alligators when you are in or near fresh or brackish water. Bites may occur when people do not pay close enough attention to their surroundings when working or recreating near water.
Do not swim outside of posted swimming areas or in waters that might be inhabited by large alligators.
Alligators are most active between dusk and dawn. Therefore, avoid swimming at night.
Dogs and cats are similar in size to the natural prey of alligators. Don’t allow pets to swim, exercise or drink in or near waters that may contain alligators.
Dogs often attract an alligator’s interest, so do not swim with your dog.
Leave alligators alone. State law prohibits killing, harassing or possessing alligators. Handling even small alligators can result in injury.
Learn more about alligators by visiting FWC's website.