5 Tips for Driving through Florida’s Alligator Alley
While Florida has more than 20 million people, it also has more than 1.25 million alligators. And the reptiles’ large population wasn’t worrisome enough, their attraction to roadways will be: alligators enjoy Florida’s hot tar roads, as they like the hot surface.
Whether you’re a resident or a tourist, there are 5 things you should know about driving through Florida’s “Alligator Alley,” an 80-mile stretch of I-75 that runs from Naples to Fort Lauderdale, FL.
Keep your distance when you encounter one on the road. Stay at least 30 feet away from an alligator if you encounter one nearby or crossing the road.
“If you encounter an alligator, keep a safe distance away from it,” says Adam Rosenblatt, University of North Florida, Biology Department. While alligators appear to be moving slowly, they can move “remarkably quick when they want to,” he adds.
Stay away from nests, when you can. These look like large piles of dirt and vegetation and are most often seen throughout the spring and summer.
“Nesting female alligators frequently guard their nests, sometimes placing themselves near the nest but in a spot where you can’t see them, and if you get too close she is likely to try and protect her eggs,” Rosenblatt says.
Do not feed alligators. It is against Florida law to feed a wild alligator. There is a great reason why the law exists; as Rosenblatt explains, “the last thing we need is a population of gators that associates humans with an easy meal.”
See an alligator on the road blocking your path? Stop your car as quickly as you can, trying not to swerve. “Running over an alligator can be deadly for the alligator and the driver alike,” says Rosenblatt. If the alligator is crossing the road, wait for it to finish and then start on your way. But if it is lying in the middle of the road not moving or appearing to have any intention of moving, drive around it if there is room and no oncoming traffic.
Do not, under any circumstances, get out of your car when you encounter an alligator on the road. Alligators have been known to attack cars they feel are too close. Rosenblatt advises drivers to call the state’s nuisance alligator hotline at 866-FWC-GATOR and wait for a trained professional to come to move the alligator from the road if you can’t safely drive around it. This also applies to visibly injured or sick alligators, regardless of whether a vehicle is involved. South Florida Wildlife Center, an affiliate of the Humane Society of the United States, recommends that drivers contact their local police department, wildlife rehabilitation center, animal control agency or Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission office for assistance.
Also, don’t attempt to run it over, as injuring or killing an alligator is punishable by law and carries a fine up to $2,500 and 30 days in jail.