In two months, Florida will have officially been without a fatal alligator attack in five years. That span would make it the longest period where the state saw no gator-related fatalities, and hunters have played a vital part.
According to the Sun-Sentinel, the last fatal attack occurred in 2007 when suspected burglar Justo Padron jumped into a pond in Miami-Dade County while fleeing from the police. A nine-foot alligator ended the chase and killed Padron before police could intervene. The state recorded no fatal alligator attacks since then, but the increase of hunting quotas and nuisance alligator trappers may have had something to do with that. In 2006, a spree of deadly alligator attacks provoked lawmakers to take action and make it easier to remove potentially dangerous reptiles. Along with the expansion of hunting territory and a more attractive Statewide Nuisance Alligator Program (SNAP), the state also increased efforts on education.
“People should understand that they should stay away from lakes and ponds early morning, early evenings. That is the prime time for the alligator to eat,” Vernon Yates, who owns Wildlife Rescue and Rehab in Seminole, told WFTS-TV.
These factors contributed to keeping the alligator population at a consistent 1.3 million around the state. Since 2006, both the number of alligators harvested by hunters or killed by SNAP trappers have increased.
“We doubled number of nuisance alligator trappers,” said Lindsey Hord, a biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and SNAP coordinator. “Now we have multiple trappers in an area where we might have had just one.”
If the state sees no fatal alligator attacks by the end of this year, it will have eclipsed its previous record set from 1979 to 1983. The Sun-Sentinel reported that there have been 22 fatal attacks in Florida since 1948, as well as 206 “major biting” incidents.