Protect Yourself in Florida Waters
Population growth and the tourism industry have increased the frequency of human-alligator interactions in Florida. You can prevent unpleasant encounters by following our tips.
Facts & Safety Tips
- Leave alligators alone. Alligators are shy animals that usually avoid human contact.
- Pay attention. Keep an eye on your surroundings near fresh or brackish waters. Avoid vegetation-filled areas of rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water.
- Do not feed alligators. Feeding alligators is illegal. Alligators that are fed will come to associate humans with food and will lose their natural fear.
- Throw fish scraps into trash cans. Do not discard fish scraps in the water at fish camps or boat ramps—you will unintentionally feed alligators.
- Follow directions on signs. Do not swim outside of posted swimming areas.
- Swim during daylight hours only. Alligators are most active at night.
- Stay with children. Never allow small children to play unattended near water.
- Keep an eye on your pets. Dogs are in more danger from alligators than humans, because they resemble the reptiles' natural prey. Do not let your dog swim in waters where you know alligators live.
- Remember the odds. You are more likely to be struck by lightning than attacked by an alligator in Florida.
If you want to keep alligators out of your yard, install a fence that is at least four and a half feet tall. Alligators are good climbers—anything lower would not be adequate protection. If you do have a close run-in with an alligator that charges at you, run away fast and straight, not zig-zag. It is unlikely, however, that an alligator will display this behavior unless you are near its nest.
Remember that in Florida, it is illegal to kill or harass alligators; alligators may only be harvested under special licenses and permits issued by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. If you have a nuisance alligator in your area, contact the FWC office or call 866-FWC-GATOR (866-392-4286).
Adapted and excerpted from:
E. Swiman, et al, Living with Alligators: A Florida Reality (WEC203), Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation (rev. 06/2011).
“Living with Alligators and Crocodiles,” Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (accessed 07/2011).