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FGCU is losing its alligator population

(EN Photo / Taylor Crehan)

FGCU is losing its alligator population because people are feeding the alligators.

Phillip Allman, FGCU professor of vertebrate zoology, said that FGCU used to have a lot of big alligators on campus.

Allman said that feeding campus alligators has been going on for a long time, and he has noticed this since he began teaching at FGCU 10 years ago.

He feels that because of this, FGCU has lost most of the bigger alligators.

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“If you are walking somewhere and notice someone handing you free food, then maybe it is worth trying a second time when you are hungry again,” Allman said. “The pattern is reinforced every time someone throws food in the pond when walking out of SoVi or at any of the other ponds.”

When fed, alligators can overcome their natural wariness and learn to associate people with food.

When this happens, some of these alligators have to be removed and killed, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website.

According to Ricky Pires, the Director of Wings of Hope, once an alligator loses its fear of humans it can become aggressive.

The aggressiveness comes from alligators associating humans with food and the alligator’s natural instinct to hunt and eat.

“That home out there is their home, not our home,” Pires said. “People may not mean harm by feeding an alligator, but it sure does harm the alligator because it often loses its life.”

According to FWC, when an alligator is believed to pose a threat to people, pets or property, and is at least four feet long, it can be considered a nuisance alligator. If a nuisance gator is a threat, it must be removed.

The removal of a nuisance alligator leads it to its death.

Nuisance alligators cannot be relocated instead of being killed, because they often try to return to their capture site.

This could cause problems with the alligator becoming more aggressive, and it would likely be more difficult to capture the alligator a second time.

Most of the alligators spotted on campus are under four feet long, which doesn’t meet the criteria for a nuisance alligator. This means that the alligator does not necessarily need to be removed and killed.

Instead, it can be directed back into the water without further action.

In Florida, it is against the law to feed alligators.

The Florida Administrative Code states, “No person shall intentionally feed, or entice with feed, any crocodilian unless held in captivity under a permit issued by the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission or otherwise provided by this Title.”

When asked what the consequences were for students feeding an alligator, UPD Chief Steven Moore said, “Generally we would issue a warning to try to educate the person. We have, one time, issued a Notice to Appear requiring a court appearance.”

“State law forbids feeding alligators so students can, and should, be arrested when feeding the animals,” Allman said.

He also thinks that more education about feeding alligators is required and that UPD should step up the enforcement of this law.

“We have got to get away from our pleasure of feeding wildlife and remember what’s best for them,” Pires said. “Alligators are not the nuisance species. People who feed them are the nuisance species.”

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    Carolina N. GarciaMar 31, 2017 at 12:08 pm

    Maybe people should also be warned not to leave their food or any of their food things lying near the ponds. I never studied about wildlife, but if the gators have been being fed then they might come out of the ponds when they smell these things, not just when someone walks up to the pond to feed them. (Carolina Garcia, 2015 grad)