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Alligator Attacks on People

Alligator Caution Sign

                                                                             Photo Fiona Sunquist ©

In 2006 Florida was shocked by three fatal alligator attacks on humans.  Prior to 2006, only 17 alligator-related deaths (PDF) had been recorded in the State since 1948.  However, within a single week in May 2006, alligators killed three women.

  • The body of a female jogger was found in a Broward County Canal – the medical examiners concluded that she was attacked on the canal bank and dragged into the water.
  • A young woman was killed while snorkeling in a secluded portion of Juniper Run in the Ocala National Forest.  She was alone when the attack happened.  Other members of her party found her in the jaws of the alligator less than 30 minutes after the attack occurred and forced the alligator to release her body by hitting it on the head.
  • The body of a 43-year-old woman was found in a Pinellas County canal about 20 miles north of St Petersburg.

Scientists don’t know what incited the latest spate of attacks but emphasize that they were “unfortunate, unrelated coincidences”.

There are 1 million to 2 million alligators in Florida and they usually shy away from people.  Trouble begins when people build houses, golf courses and shopping centers in alligator habitat. The jogger who died was found in an area that was once part of the Everglades and is now home to thousands of people.

Most trouble with alligators arises when people feed them.  The reptiles become accustomed to handouts and begin to associate people with food. 

The three main pieces of advice from experts are: Never feed alligators, don’t swim alone, and don’t swim between dusk and dawn when alligators are most active.

Most recent incident.

In November 2006 a Lakeland man may have ignored at least two pieces of this advice. Neighbors were awakened at 3:45 am in the morning by the sound of screaming coming from a nearby lake.  They called the police who discovered Adrian Apgar fifteen feet from shore in chest deep water. Apgar said he had two broken arms and an alligator had him pinned down.  After a titanic 15-minute struggle between three deputies and the 500-pound reptile, deputies managed to rescue the naked, badly injured man.

Apgar, a truck driver, later told police and paramedics he had been smoking crack. Whether or not he went swimming intentionally is unknown.


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Wildlife of Florida 2011
Wildlife of Florida 2011
Fiona Sunquist
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