Alligators are a pretty common sight in Florida. There are over one million of them roaming around the Everglades and beyond, so that’s not really a surprise. What is concerning Florida residents, however, is the recent rise in ‘gator attacks. There just seem to be more and more of them occurring all over the state.
To really get an understanding of the situation, one needs some statistics first; despite the massive number of alligators in Florida, alligator attacks on people are actually quite rare. Only 410 people have been bitten by alligators in Florida, which might sound like a large number until you realize that has been over the course of seventy one years. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission only started keeping track of attacks in 1948. Statistically speaking, that means only about six people are attacked by a gator each year. But in 2017, the number of people attacked was twelve, doubling that average.
Thankfully alligator attacks are often less than fatal, with only 25 of the entire grand total resulting in someone’s death. That said, the chance of death obviously goes up when the number of attacks increases, so people are right to be concerned. However, it’s worth noting that this probably isn’t due to any strange phenomenon: fact of the matter is the population of Florida has been growing a lot these past few years, and the more people there are, the more alligator sightings and attacks are going to be reported, especially during mating season.
The root of the issue is that alligators simply don’t care for boundaries of any sort. In May, a huge gator gave some kids a heart attack at a bus stop. Another one blocked a runway at an Air Force base. A dog was eaten by one near Fort Myers, and a gator trapper had to be called to remove a ten footer lounging around on the road. Florida’s trappers have told stories of gators appearing in all sorts of places; hot tubs, elevators, garages, and even the third floor of some buildings. Gators are a bit more adventurous than people give them credit for.
What this means is that Florida has been hiring a lot more trappers, and a lot more gators are being harvested, not just for the resources they provide, but to keep their numbers down. As far as Florida is concerned, gators are their number one pest, and like any pest, their numbers have to be trimmed and maintained to make life easier for the people that live there. It’s unfortunate for all of those gators, but when it comes down to choosing the safety of human lives or the 1.3 million alligators in the state, the choice isn’t hard to make. It’s not worth a kid losing their leg while waiting at a bus stop.
Still, we can only wonder if Florida has a long term plan in place to deal with the increased number of encounters between their resident citizens and their resident critters.