Sanibel warns residents and visitors about alligators

Author: Carolyn Dolcimascolo
Published: Updated:
Alligator that bit a man on Sanibel. (Credit: WINK News)

The article is titled simply “Living with Alligators on Sanibel Island.”

But honestly, it could read the same anywhere in Florida. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, more than a million alligators are in the state.

They prefer freshwater lakes and rivers but are also found in brackish water and have even been spotted in the Gulf of Mexico.

gulf alligator
An alligator was seen swimming in the Gulf of Mexico. (CREDIT: WINK News)

FWC reported that females rarely exceed 10 feet, but males can grow much larger. The Florida state record for length is a 14-foot 3-1/2-inch male from Lake Washington in Brevard County. For weight, it’s a 1,043-pound male from Orange Lake in Alachua County. 

Back to Sanibel, the City “contains over 2,200 acres of freshwater wetlands that provide habitat for a sizable population of gators. Since many of the residential neighborhoods on the island contain lakes or interface with conservation lands containing wetlands, interaction is likely.”

Sanibel offered these safety tips:

  • Be aware of the possibility of alligator attacks when in or near fresh or brackish bodies of water. Attacks most often occur when people do not pay close enough attention to their surroundings when working or recreating near water.
  • Do not work with your back to the water.
  • Closely supervise children when they are playing in or around water. Never allow small children to play by themselves near water.
  • Do not swim outside of posted swimming areas or in waters that might be inhabited by large alligators.
  • They are most active between dusk and dawn. Therefore, swim only during daylight hours.
  • Leave them alone. State law prohibits killing, feeding, harassing or possession of alligators.
CREDIT: Steve Wilkins
  • Never feed or entice gators—it is dangerous and illegal. When fed, alligators lose their natural fear and learn to associate people with food.
  • Inform others that feeding alligators is illegal and creates problems for others who want to use the water for recreational purposes and ultimately results in the need to destroy the animal.
  • Dispose of fish scraps in garbage cans at freshwater boat ramps, docks or fish camps. Do not throw them in the water. Although you are not intentionally feeding alligators when you do this, the end result can be the same.
  • Do not allow pets to swim, exercise, or drink in waters that may contain alligators.
  • Observe and photograph alligators only from a distance.

And, if all those warnings are not enough for you, here’s one more reason to steer clear of gators. Feeding alligators is a criminal. It is punishable with up to a $500 fine and 60 days in jail.

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