JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Thursday kicks off mating season for alligators - no fooling! The reptiles take the mating season, which lasts from April 1 through June seriously and experts say so, should you. That’s because you will likely see more alligators roaming around over the next few months as they look for love.
Gators are more aggressive during mating season and can kill. Three years ago, during mating season, an alligator dragged a 47-year-old woman to her death while she was walking her dog in Davie, Florida.
Former gator trapper Bob Shoemaker has a 3-foot-long pet alligator named Squirt that he trapped on a call a couple of years ago and says he is harmless but that's not the case for larger alligators.
"Over 6 foot or 7 foot, start looking at them more. If they are under 5 foot, they are just eating things they should be eating," Shoemaker said.
He said when they grow to 6 feet long, they are mature and start breeding.
"You go to alligator farms and you see them the males shake in the water, it's their call for the females," Shoemaker said.
A female alligator can lay several eggs and are very protective of them.
If you see an alligator in your neighborhood, even a small one, he said, the biggest mistake you can make is to feed it.
"He's not coming closer unless he's ever been fed. If they've been fed once, it's all over. They start getting used to food.
Shoemaker said gators under 5 feet aren't really a problem and nothing to fear, but when they get bigger they can look for bigger meals but they aren't looking to eat people.
"They eat small things. So cats, dogs, a raccoon, turtles, something like that," he said.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission recommends people stay safe by never feeding an alligator, keeping your distance, and keeping pets on a leash and away from a body of water.
The FWC urges people who believe an alligator poses a threat to people, pets or property to call the FWC's toll-free Nuisance Alligator Hotline at 866-FWC-GATOR (866-392-4286).
When someone concerned about an alligator calls the hotline, the FWC will dispatch one of its contracted nuisance alligator trappers.