When it comes to wildlife, it's no surprise that Florida, with its humid climate and swampy land, is home to a few interesting creatures. The first of these crazy varmints that comes to mind are, of course, the famous-enough-to-name-a-sports-team-after alligators! And while the average local is well-accustomed to seeing them almost everywhere, vacationers are often shocked when they see a gator anywhere near them outside of a national refuge. That's why, we're here to give you a brief run down on what to expect when you make your trip down south to the Sunshine State!
The main reason why alligators are considered to be iconic of Florida is because they only live in the Southeast of the country. Although they can be found in part within certain regions of Louisiana, Alabama, and a few other states within the area, Florida's wetlands provide them with the perfect environment, to hunt, swim, and crawl. Though these fresh-water dwellers are mostly found in places such as the Everglades National Park, which is located about a half an hour from the Keys, namely Key Largo
, and a little less than an hour away from Miami
, and Miami Beach
, alligators are not restricted to lakes and swamps. However uncommon, it may be possible to occasionally see an alligator going for a dip in the ocean! The concept of finding an almost six-foot long gator swimming alongside you is an intimidating one, but rest assured, the reality is far different. Lifeguards and other officials monitoring Florida's beaches are always on the lookout for any potential stray gators getting ready to enjoy a beach day. Saltwater crocodiles are actually more likely to find their way towards the beach, but naturally, they too fall are under strict vigilance.
Despite the rare instances of spotting an alligator in the ocean, both crocodiles and alligators are surprisingly not very likely to go directly into crowded areas. They are naturally afraid of people, which they tend to avoid. They also hunt at dusk or nighttime, further minimizing human-gator interactions. In any event, the best way to keep safe is to refrain from feeding alligators (or crocodiles) at any time. Although they don't go after people on their own, they are likely to lose their fear when being offered any sort of food and in some instances have become aggressive after approaching anyone willing enough to stand nearby and offer them anything they can feed upon, even if it's not a part of their natural diet. Another aspect to be aware of is keeping track of your pets. Alligators have been known to attack swimming dogs, which they are drawn to because of their size, averagely equivalent to the size of their standard prey. Annually there are always more attacks on dogs than people, emphasizing the utmost importance of being aware of your pet's location at all times.
All fears aside, Florida's trademark critters have more often been found in comic locations, such as the rocket launching area of the Kennedy Space Center! If you take a tour of the center, you are likely to notice that the tall gates that surround the launch sites curve outwards at the very top. These gates were installed after more than a few incidents of finding a scattered group of gators perusing near the base of a rocket minutes away from launch time, therefore botching the liftoff operation for fear of barbecuing the poor things on the spot. These gates have become standard both at the space center and around any potential areas where loitering alligators can potentially crossover into human territory.
Overall, alligators, though not known for being friendly in the least, are usually easy to avoid and are not likely to cause you any harm unless of course provoked. If you see an alligator while on vacation, consider yourself lucky! The only thing you will probably ever have to do aside from staying out of their way is to take a nice picture.