With toilet-invading iguanas, deadly hybrid super snakes and poisonous giant amphibians, no corner of Florida is ever quite safe from the threat of a chattering reptile.
Now, with the impending start of the rainy season, another threat is emerging from the swamps: beloved alligators heading into urban areas in an annual quest for love.
It followed a Pinella County man’s discovery of a 7-foot reptile lurking in his backyard before taking a dip in the family pool, and a joint effort by Venice police and Sarasota County sheriff’s deputies to remove a large street from a residential complex.
Perhaps the most violent example came in a video of two alligators involved in a mating ritual, captured by a Bradenton resident and posted to YouTube.
“Didn’t have to leave my backyard to watch these two streets toss each other around,” wrote Gordon Silver, the gator videographer.
April is the last month of Florida’s dry season and the beginning of the alligators’ annual courtship. Rising temperatures awaken the reptiles’ metabolism, and they become more energetic and travel longer in search of food and helpers.
“As a reminder, warm spring weather means alligators are more active and more visible,” says the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in its online advice on living with alligators and crocodiles.
“It also means that they will be observed basking in the sun when regulating their body temperature. Never feed an alligator, and keep your distance if you see one. Swim only in certain swimming areas in daylight. And keep pets on a leash and away from the water. ”
Most alligator mating takes place in May and June with nesting in late June and July. Females lay an average of 32 to 46 eggs that hatch in late summer or early fall.
Despite the fact that about a third of the nest is destroyed by predators, mostly raccoons according to the state, alligators live in a healthy number in all 67 Florida counties, with about 1.3 meters nationwide.
The state operates an annoying alligator hotline and a network of freelance trappers. Most removed alligators are killed humanely and sold for meat and their hides.
Although alligators may be more aggressive during the mating season and human encounters are more likely, the threat remains relatively low.
There have been 26 recorded human deaths involving alligators since records began in 1948, showing state data and 433 cases of bites ranging from minor to serious.
As symbolic of Florida as Disney World and Nasa, the giant reptiles continue with a certain mystery to the state’s 21.5 million inhabitants and its many visitors.
Last September, Mark Johnson, an artist from Port St Lucie, produced a vivid self-portrait of an 8ft alligator that crushed the teeth in his thigh while walking his dog.
In November, a 74-year-old man released his puppy from an alligator’s jaws in a lake near his home in Estero. Video of the incident showed a compound Richard Wilbanks constantly holding his cigarette tied around his jaws.