Alligators are remnants of a prehistoric era. When dinosaurs became extinct, these modern-day contemporaries of dinosaurs continued to flourish and have survived their prehistoric relatives into the 20th century.
Alligators can be found throughout all of Florida and in almost any body of water, but most common in the major river drainages basins and large lakes in the central and southern portions of the state. They also can be found in marshes, swamps, ponds, drainage canals, phosphate-mine settling ponds and ditches. Alligators are tolerant of poor water quality and occasionally inhabit brackish marshes along the coast.
An alligator's awesome countenance and menacing jaws evoke fear and respect from humans. Although the alligator is a predator, its appetite includes almost anything and, unfortunately, there have been a small number of tragic alligator attacks on people. Some people still delight in feeding alligators. This results in the reptiles' overcoming their natural shyness and becoming accustomed to humans. Some have become so used to humans and food handouts that they exhibit little, if any, fear of humans.
Respect the personal space of any wild animal. If an animal reacts to your presence, you are too close.
Apart from the risk people impose upon themselves by feeding an alligator, they are also conditioning the animal to associate people with food. For this reason, Florida law prohibits feeding wild alligators.
To prevent the loss of pets (especially small dogs) to alligators, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission recommends that persons not allow pets to swim in water occupied by large animals. Needless to say please do not allow children or adults to swim in these areas as well, especially at dusk or at night, when the reptiles often feed. For more information visit the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website.
Source: "American Alligator" publication, printed by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.