|Photo by Larry Harter
Natural Resource Agent
Many Pinellas County parks and preserves post “DO NOT FEED” the alligator signs around lakes and ponds. These educational signs teach the public about the dangers of feeding alligators while also helping to protect alligators from unnatural interactions with humans. These signs are increasingly important as human population increases have placed tremendous pressure on wildlife habitat. The list below highlights some of the reasons for educating the public about the urban-wildlife interface:
- Habitat destruction has forced many alligators to adjust to living in a world surrounded by man.
- When people feed alligators, they lose their fear of humans and begin to relate man with food.
- Once alligators become a “nuisance” or even life-threatening, personnel are called in to evaluate the situation and remove the alligator if necessary.
- Alligators that are “removed” are typically killed and processed for their meat and hide. Occasionally they are sold to an alligator farm, exhibit or zoo.
- State law makes it illegal to feed alligators; it doesn’t matter if it’s chicken or marshmallows, all of it is against the law. This law was put in place in an effort to prevent alligators from becoming a pest and thus further being killed.
As Auxiliary Ranger, Larry Harter put it, “People think that feeding alligators is being kind to them but it upsets the balance of nature and causes them to them to lose their natural fear of humans.”
The lesson here is that alligators are native and wild animals that are best if left alone. Mid-April through May is mating season for the alligators, making both males and females more aggressive. Avoid becoming gator bait; read the signs and follow the law.
For more information on the American Alligator, please visit the sources below: