Hardy County, Florida (WFLA) – For the third time this month, a person has been injured by an alligator in the Tampa Bay area.
Experts say some of the causes involve growth in both humans and crocodiles in the area.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, a 13-year-old girl was bitten by an alligator Sunday afternoon near Gardner Boat Ramp along the Peace River in Zolvo Springs. The girl was taken to hospital with injuries but is in stable condition, officials said Sunday evening.
An annoying crocodile hunter was sent to the scene on Sunday.
The FWC declined Channel 8 News’ request for an interview on Monday and did not provide an answer to questions about the girl’s condition and/or whether any Gates had been arrested.
“The best case scenario is to keep your distance,” said Spencer Schultz, a reptile and amphibian specialist at ZooTampa.
Schultz points out that now is a nesting season and an early hatching season for aphids.
“The females are very protective of the nests and their young. So this is one of the few times an alligator will actively try to chase people away and be very aggressive,” Schultz said.
“Alligators become more visible and active during the spring and summer,” an FWC spokesperson wrote in a statement. “When temperatures rise, their metabolism increases and they start looking for food.”
According to the FWC, Florida has a healthy and stable gator population, estimated at 1.3 million alligators of each size. They reside in all 67 counties, in all wetlands where there is adequate food and shelter.
“The Gators are back. So we’re seeing more gates now and they’re going home. We also see a lot of people coming down, especially in the summer because it’s a popular vacation spot,” Schultz said.
Schultz advises people not to feed the crocodile, as this behavior causes them to associate humans with food.
WFLA’s Channel Eight has learned that the FWC is investigating 16 alligator attacks in the state. Last week, officials said a Sarasota man was injured by an alligator bite in Lake Manatee. Days earlier, an elderly woman was killed by a crocodile who fell into the water at Sarasota Golf Course. And in May, another suspected alligator attack killed a man in Pinellas County.
Trapper Dustin Hooper says there is an overlap between the crocodile and human population growth in the area.
“That’s one reason there are more attacks happening right now. It’s just more people and crocodiles don’t have any predators,” said Hooper, who owns All Creatures Wildlife Control.
More tips from the FWC on alligator safety:
- Keep a safe distance if you see a crocodile. If someone is concerned about an alligator, they should call the FWC’s toll-free Nuisance Alligator hotline at 866-FWC-GATOR (866-392-4286), and we will dispatch a contracted annoying alligator catcher to resolve the situation.
- Keep pets on leash and away from the water’s edge. Pets often resemble the natural prey of a crocodile.
- Swim only in designated swimming areas during daylight hours and without your pet. Alligators are most active between dusk and dawn.
- Never feed an alligator. Feeding a crocodile is illegal and dangerous. When fed, crocodiles can lose their natural vigil and instead learn to associate people with the availability of food.