Updated: Mar 9
Foremost, my sincere condolences to the family and friends of dear Gloria Serge. Within the limited information presented via the media sources, I was disheartened about the tragic preventable incident and the lack of information on how to coexist with these magnificent prehistoric reptiles safely. I didn't hear anyone addressing how to stay safe with our crocodilian companions other than for us to stay away from the water's edge.
People move to Florida's communities to be safe while enjoying the wildlife attracted by the ponds and lakes. Instead of provoking fear by saying "stay away" and invoking a flight response, let's educate people on how to coexist with these toothy opportunistic feeders safely. People fear what they don't understand, so we need to begin discrediting myths by providing real education on the behaviors of these predatory animals. Crocodilians have been around for millions of years for a reason ~ outliving even the dinosaurs. So we must remember, it is 'We' who are living in 'Their' habitats.
Persons living close to American alligators and/or American crocodiles, a saltwater species whose numbers are increasing in Florida, need to know the following:
It is illegal to feed alligators and crocodiles in the wild. They are the only reptiles with developed cerebral cortexes which enables them to plot, plan and remember. Once fed, they stop fearing humans and start to seek us out as a food source. An aggressive bee-line behavior of an alligator toward a human out of the water indicates that the animal was expecting to be fed.
One should stay alert around the water's edge and give a distance of at least six feet. Also, mix up your routine. Do not walk at the same time or on the same path in a routine manner. Crocodilians will get to know your patterns. This tactic works well to avoid all apex predators, including some humans when you go shopping.
Never swim in crocodilian-infested waters, especially at dusk and dawn, their primary feeding times. Crocodilians are crepuscular (active or appearing at the time of day just before the sun goes down or just after the sun rises when the light is not bright).
Do not clean your fish or discard scraps near the water's edge, at boat ramps, or around docks. This is referred to as 'indirect feeding' and will also result in the crocodilian associating humans with food.
Do not feed waterfowl, including ducks. This attracts crocodilians and again reinforces the bond of humans as a source of food.
Give ample berth to slide marks at the water's edge. These mark territories and possible nesting sites.
Do not dangle your arms or legs over small boats or kayaks.
Do not attempt to capture a crocodilian or its hatchlings. It is illegal without a permit and very dangerous. Mama crocodilians are protective of their young.
Always be alert and aware when near any body of water in Florida. When alligators are removed from a location, the next alligator will move into the now available habitat. Crocodilians continually search for the perfect niche, especially after ample rainfall.
CHERIE CHENOT-ROSE holds Bachelor of Science degrees in Biology and Psychobiology. She's published five scientific research articles on American crocodiles and hundreds of crocodilian monographs for numerous media outlets. Founding Belize's first crocodile sanctuary, ACES ~ American Crocodile Education Sanctuary, in 2006, Cherie and her husband, Vince, have shared their crocodile conservation efforts worldwide via TV appearances, including Florida FOX4; Sweden TV4; Discovery Animal Planet, USA and UK; Poland TVN with Nat Geo traveler Martyna Wojciechowska; KoldCast's World Travel; and World Wildlife Foundation, Poland TVN, and France TV5.