ORLANDO, Fla. – Florida has more than 1 million alligators and several laws to protect them.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service down-listed the American alligator from Endangered to Threatened in 1977, and in 1987, alligators were reclassified to Similarity of Appearance to a Threatened taxon, which is their current classification.
The purpose of the designation is to provide safeguards to other protected crocodilians, such as the American crocodile, by regulating the management of alligators and the legal trade in alligator products.
Alligator Management Program:
Florida’s Alligator Management Program has five separate divisions, one of which is the Statewide Nuisance Alligator Program. Should an alligator come lumbering into your yard, you can call SNAP at 866-FWC-GATOR, and a nuisance alligator trapper will come take it.
The gator, however, must be at least 4 feet long before it is considered by law to be a nuisance, except in extreme situations.
Trapping and killing:
It’s a third-degree felony under Florida law to kill or injure an alligator. It’s also a felony to capture and keep an alligator or its eggs unless you purchase a special alligator trapping or farming license from the state.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said there are rare circumstances in which someone can claim self-defense with a gator.
Experts say if a gator attacks you or your pet, you can take action, but if the attack happens off your property, it becomes more difficult to claim self-defense.
The FWC does not want people shooting and killing alligators at random and then claiming self-defense.
It is illegal to feed alligators in Florida.
How to safely live with gators:
Although gator incidents with humans are rare, the FWC offered tips about how to avoid alligators.
"Reduce the chances of conflicts with alligators by swimming only in designated swimming areas during daylight hours," wildlife officials said. "Also, keep pets on a leash and away from the water."
The FWC also urges people to keep their distance if they see an alligator.
Alligators, which inhabit all 67 counties in Florida and can be found anywhere with standing water, become more active in spring as temperatures rise, the FWC said.
Wildlife officials said the American alligator is a conservation success story, with Florida having an estimated population of 1.3 million.