Alligator Safety: What to do or not do?

Living in Florida means we share the state with an estimated 1.3 million alligators. As the weather warms and their mating season beings, you should keep these things in mind.

Warm spring weather means alligators are more active and more visible, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says. Their mating season begins in April then continues through May, or June. Rising temperatures increase an alligator's metabolism, which means they begin seeking prey, according to FWC. It also means they'll be observed basking in the sun as they regulate their body temperature.

The American alligator is classified by the US Fish and Wildlife Service as similarity of appearance to a threatened taxon. This listing provides federal protection for alligators but allows state-approved management and control programs. This listing has been adopted by the State of Florida. Alligators can be legally taken only by individuals with proper licenses and permits.

Pre-Job Inspection:

• Inspect the jobsite for alligator presence (nests, gator tracks, bank slides, bubble trails, sunning, and signs of predation events) before starting work.
• Determine if necessary to enter or work near the water.
• Evaluate if a better time could be selected (relative to temperature).

Alligator Safety Tips:

• Florida Statute 372.667 prohibits feeding, killing, harassing, or the possession of alligators.
• Do not try to approach or capture. Even small ones can cause injury.
• Alligators are most active between dusk and dawn.
• Food shall not be consumed within proximity of a water body.
• Food scraps and garbage shall not be left onsite or tossed into the water. All food shall be disposed of in a trash container with a lid and removed offsite at the end of the workday.
• Do not enter or stand near waters that might be inhabited by alligators.

If an Alligator Attacks:

• Run away in a straight line. It will outrun a human for 30 feet.
• If it grabs you: hit it repeatedly on its nose, try to gouge/poke its eyes, and scream. Don't try to pry open jaws.
• Seek immediate medical attention if bitten by an alligator. Bites often result in serious infection.

While Work Is Going On:

• Utilize the buddy system or tight group and have a safety spotter
• Do not enter the water alone or be separated by more than a reasonable distance from the group.
• Do not get outside of the group's line of vision. The more limited the visibility, the tighter the group formation.
• A designated spotter should be in place to maintain visual contact with the crew members and assess environmental conditions.
• Maintain Situational Awareness of Self and Group
• Each crew member is expected to be aware at all times of their surroundings.
• Watch where you step, and the placement of your hands and feet.
• Crew leaders and crew members shall spend a reasonable amount of time observing the water and banks, each time, before approaching or entering the water.
• A walking stick may be used in certain instances to probe the path ahead and/or to move vegetation aside to gain a better view.
• Address Safety Concerns and Mitigate Risks
• Any safety concerns related or unrelated to alligators shall be communicated to the supervisor immediately and mitigated before work may resume.
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