There's Gators in Them Thar Waters!

Aggressive AlligatorFlorida is famous for many things: the Everglades, white sand beaches, and great weather are just a few. But something a bit more sinister is also synonymous with our fair state: alligators. Recent news stories describe horrific incidences of alligators swallowing human limbs whole, hands and arms specifically. But how dangerous are these creatures in actuality? Read on for some stats about Florida's famous freshwater 'gator and to get tips on admiring these beasts from a safe distance.

From 1948 to 2005, alligator attacks on people in Florida numbered 391. That sounds like a big number, but it actually averages out to one death every five years and just over six injuries per year. That's drastically less than all of Florida's workplace fatalities in 2010 alone. However, there's no denying alligators are dangerous animals, especially given the recent attacks getting airplay on the news. A teenaged swimmer in the Caloosahatchee River recently lost his arm to a 'gator, and an airboat captain had his hand bitten off.

So, how did these unfortunate attacks happen? Well, some say it's the victims' own faults. Many long-time Florida residents will tell you it's foolish to swim in freshwater, no matter what part of the state you're in. In the case of the man who lost his hand, fish were being used as bait to get the animal closer, which is not only foolish, it's also illegal. When the man put his hand into the water to wash the fish off, the alligator caught ahold of the man's hand. It also happens to be alligator mating season, which makes these beasts more curious, territorial, and aggressive and this likely was a factor in both these attacks.

A few precautions should be taken in order to admire these fierce predators safely. First of all, do not swim in freshwater. Secondly, if you're touring alligator habitat in a boat, make sure you follow the captain's rules and use your common sense. Do not put your hands or feet in the water and do not feed the 'gators. This last caution is both for safety and to keep your criminal record clear: it's a second-degree misdemeanor in the state of Florida to feed alligators because it lessens their fear of humans, making them more dangerous. If someone is caught feeding an alligator, the animal has to be euthanized so that it does not become a threat to humans.

Florida's freshwater alligators bring countless tourists to our state every year. These predators can grow up to 14.5 feet long with a weight of 1,000+ pounds. They are interesting for many reasons, including the fact that they are the only animal, other than birds, known to have uni-directional breathing. You can enjoy alligators while staying safe by using your common sense and by not feeding them.

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