Here are some important Gator tips to remember:
  • Alligators live in both fresh and brackish water. Never swim or wade in waters not posted for swimming, especially near dusk or at night.
  • Never feed an alligator. Doing so can make them unafraid of humans and is against the law in Florida.
  • Closely supervise children and pets and never let them play near any body of water unattended.
  • Observe and photograph alligators only from a safe distance. They are capable of short bursts of speed and can raise themselves up by several feet. So, give them a wide berth.
  • If attacked, make as much noise as possible and try to hit or poke at the alligators eyes. They are more likely to release prey that fights back.
  • Seek medical attention immediately. Even minor bites from a small gator can cause serious infections.
  • Don’t try to pretend you are like the “guys you see on TV” and think you can deal with these creatures. Call in the professionals when you encounter an aggressive alligator.
  • Call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Alligator Hotline (866-392-4286) for any gator over four feet in length that you feel is posing a threat to life or property.

When you call the hotline you will be given a reference number and the phone number of a licensed alligator trapper. The trapper will remove the gator where it will be processed into handbags, shoes, belts, wallets and dinner at fine local restaurants like Linger Lodge or Skipper's Smokehouse. Here is a CCE gator that ended up on the dinner plate.

 

What should I do if I see a snake?

Realize that there are 50 species of snakes in Florida but only 6 of them are venomous and a danger to humans. Therefore your odds of hearing a scream are only about 70%. Don't panic - lots of adults scream and chances are nobody else heard you so try to regain your composure. The harmless snakes are easy to identify because they all have round pupils (the exception is the coral snake which does have round pupils and is venomous but is easily identified by its colorful banding). The problem with this knowledge is that unless you possess exceptional eyesight you have be very close to the business end of the snake to make out the pupil shape. If the pupil is elliptical then it is absolutely venomous and potentially lethal. Florida snakes are not particularly aggressive and most will not bother you unless you bother them. My experience is the water moccasin (cottonmouth) has not read the guidelines because they will charge you for a few yards. Most snakes (44 species locally) are beneficial and should not be killed - especially the Eastern Indigo snake (black snake) because it is listed as Federally threatened in Florida and it eats venomous snakes.

  Beneficial - Eastern Indigo Snake

Click here for a good resource on local snakes from the University of Florida. This guide has links to all of Florida's snakes and a key to spotting and SAFELY identifying all snakes. It pays to know the difference:

snake   Venomous Eastern Coral Snake

Snake   Harmless Scarlet Kingsnake

Scarlet Snake   Harmless Scarlet Snake

A mnemonic rhyme may help you distinguish the Eastern Coral Snake from the two similar harmless species:

'If red touches yellow, it can kill a fellow' (Eastern Coral Snake)

'If red touches black, it is a friend of Jack' (Scarlet Kingsnake or Scarlet Snake)

Of course in a panic situation you will forget the rhyme. Just remember that if the first color of the head is black it is a venomous coral snake.