As the Living with Wildlife educator at SCCF, many stories come my way from residents that are concerned about issues in their neighborhoods that concern wildlife. Alligators are most often the topic of those stories. A most concerning recent neighborhood story included children fishing in a fresh water canal. With the recent death of the child in Orlando by alligator attack the story concerned me even more.
Can fishing in lakes and canals turn into feeding alligators? If the fishing happens over and over in the same place and if the bait used or the fish caught are thrown into the water…I believe those alligators can become “human fed” gators. Many years ago blue crab fishing in the refuge was ended for just this reason. The chicken necks used for bait were attracting alligators whether the fishermen meant to or not.
Although it is not illegal to fish in fresh water lakes and canals where our gators live is it really worth it? Just like you should not allow your dogs to swim in fresh water, I think children fishing in fresh water is not worth the risk…fish in salt water for their enjoyment and safety. Playing closer than 20 feet to fresh water edges is not advised.
Alligators catch their natural prey by lunging onto canal edges to catch birds or heaven forbid small children and dogs. Fishing could encourage that natural behavior, teaching them to overcome their natural avoidance of humans.
Thinking of the horror of a child being attacked by a gator on Sanibel reminds me of my friends’ death by alligator attack in 2004. A resident attending an SCCF “Gator Tales” program following that death “confessed” to feeding that gator. He did not understand how bad it was to feed wildlife. In the couple of years following that horrible attack, approximately 150 alligators were trapped and killed on Sanibel. A FED ALLIGATOR IS A DEAD ALLIGATOR. FEEDING WILDLIFE IS DETRIMENTAL TO HUMAN AND GATOR HEALTH.
– Dee Serage-Century