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UF experts available to comment on fatal attacks by alligators


Tuesday, May 16, 2006.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A University of Florida alligator expert says dry weather is partly to blame for the recent spate of the reptiles’ fatal attacks on humans.

Frank Mazzotti, a wildlife ecology and conservation professor at UF’s Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center, said dry weather forces the animals into available bodies of waters where they are more likely to encounter humans. Food sources also are limited because the marshes are dry, and the warm weather makes them hungrier, he added.

Until last week, only 17 fatal alligator attacks had been verified in Florida since 1948, so the deaths of three women last week blamed on alligators have been surprising to some people.

“We’ve gone so long with so few attacks,” Mazzotti said. “It’s not a question of why we’re having so many now, but why we’ve had so few in the past. This underscores that alligators are just not that aggressive toward people in general.”

He suggests Florida residents call the Statewide Nuisance Alligator Program if they see alligators acting aggressively. The program is operated by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and has a hotline number at (866) 392-4286.

“They can assess the threat of the situation and are empowered to make the appropriate response,” Mazzotti said.


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