Mating season makes gators more aggressive in late summer

Experts offer tips to stay safe in local lakes and rivers

By Allison McGinley - News Director

ORLANDO, Fla. - In August and September, swimmers are at greatest risk for a gator attack. Experts explain the late summer heat and mating season cause gators to be highly aggressive.

This summer, home video surfaced on YouTube of a kayaker in Seminole County getting the fear of his life.

"Something hit my boat and it was violent. It jolted at me and it hit the backside of my arm so hard that it was throbbing," said Thomas Swaider as he described the attack on Lake Triplet.

The gator got so close, Swaider knocked his girlfriend's dog out of the kayak.
"I looked over she was swimming there. I was like, ‘Oh gees Buffy!' so I grabbed the leash and ripped her in just threw her in the boat," said Swaider.

Gator strikes are not unusual here in Central Florida and some people aren't as lucky as Swaider.

Tim Williams, a gator expert at Gatorland explains why gators are so dangerous.
"They can see very well they hear real good. Their sense of smell is very good and they're constantly looking for something," said Williams.

But rarely is that something a human.

"They're either searching for food or they're trying to get to a mate or a place that they can call their home," said Williams.

As violent as Swaider's YouTube video looks, Williams doesn't believe this was a gator attack.

"They see us in the water we're splashing we're making noise. I think an attack is with purpose. I think an attack is when the animal really wants you," said Williams.

The fact that the gator swam away tells Williams this was all a gator mistake.
"It's low light either morning or evening and they swim up on this thing and grab it. And once they grab it they say oh my gosh it's more than what i thought it was and they turn it loose," said Williams.

But if a swimmer does see a gator in the water, maybe even coming toward at him, Williams says the best advice is to stay calm.

"Let him go on his way. Don't call him don't throw anything at him don't throw food to him. If a gator starts toward you ease away from that animal don't make a lot of noise a lot of splashing but give it the respect get away from it," said Williams.

And in a worst-case scenario and a gator bites, Williams says a swimmer's best hope is to fight back.

"Fight and fight hard. Poke, hit, pull try to get away from the animal. Their jaws are like steel traps they're real hard to get open," said Williams.

Florida averages between 7 and 10 gator attacks each year.

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