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An alligator’s appearance: A Floridian’s perspective

An alligator’s appearance: A Floridian’s perspective
EN Photo / Kelli Krebs

The wildlife found in Florida is something to truly behold. Certain animals are more commonly found in Florida than others, such as the alligator. The state tries to respect alligators as much as possible, but it does not want to put its residents at risk. One way to try to avoid any alligator attacks is to put up signs where alligators are known to be present. It is when people ignore the signs that are put up that injuries can occur.

A 2-year-old boy recently passed away due to an alligator pulling him under the water near Disney World. The father of the boy in question was letting the boy stand in the water while watching the firework show that Disney World is classically known for. There was a sign near the water that stated that people were not supposed to swim in the water. An alligator appeared and pulled the child under, and the father was not able to rescue his son from the alligator’s grasp. It has since been stated that the little boy was not killed by the alligator itself but drowned from being under the water for far too long.

This is a prime example as to why paying attention to signs is important. I have lived in Florida for most of my life, so my parents taught me to be cautious of the water from an early age. Alligators are common in Florida.

The concept that I think people may forget is that when we urbanize everything around us, we are moving into another creature’s habitat. The animals we disturb by building and developing new establishments need a place to go. Since the amount of space available for an animal to go to is dwindling, we have to respect what space they have left. In short, if you step into another animal’s habitat and there are signs saying that you should not be in that habitat, you should expect to find something there.

If a person has not grown up in Florida or a place with a similar environment and then comes down here for vacation (as many people do), I can see why they may not think anything of going into the water despite the sign. If a person has done the same thing before in their home state and nothing has happened to them, they may think that the same conditions apply to where they are at the time. A person’s experience in a different area can create a false sense of security with a similar situation in a different location.

I have noticed that a great amount of my fellow incoming freshmen are from out of state. As a general warning: you will see alligators. FGCU is known for being eco-friendly and promotes taking care of the environment and each of us becoming an active part of our community. The university was built on a nature preserve, which means that anything that can be found in the woods, is probably on or at least around our campus.

At my orientation, I actually saw an alligator under the bridge near the South Village dining hall. One of the orientation leaders informed me that the alligator was affectionately named Jeffrey by the students and that he was known to come up onto land every now and then. That same day, I found out that, as a general rule, if you do not bother them, they will not bother you. The alligators at FGCU seem to be big on the “you respect me; I respect you” idea.

What I plan to do when I move into South Village in the fall is to assume that any body of water on campus could possibly have alligators in it. If I go on one of the nature trails on campus, I will stick to the marked path and not try to go off in a different direction. My thought process with staying on the exact path that is marked for the trail is that there are probably plenty of reasons why the people who marked the trail would not want me walking in the other direction. I would prefer not to spend my afternoon with a black bear or alligator because I wanted to be adventurous and went right when I should have gone left, if I can avoid it. I find that adopting this mindset will decrease your chances of being a victim of the same situation that the poor 2-year-old boy found himself in earlier this month.

Even bodies of water that a person would glance at and think they were safe to swim in normally are not in Florida. Just try to remember that the signs that are found in local institutions are serious and are there for a reason. Even if the signs are stating the most obvious information pertaining to an activity or safety precaution (land or water), they need to be read and should be adhered to. Someone probably did that activity incorrectly and was injured because of their error.

Alligator attacks can be easily prevented if the right precautions are taken. The water is not something that should be feared, but do not ignore information that suggests that the water is not safe. As long as we respect the wildlife that surrounds us, we should be able to remain safe.

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