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How to stay safe around bears and alligators

Here in Southwest Florida, we deal with swampy conditions. And because of those conditions, we have to deal with a lot of wildlife — like alligators and black bears.

“I think it’s important to understand that we built out homes here in Southwest Florida on a swamp,” Duncan Metts with the Calusa Nature Center said.

Metts shared some pointers on what you should do if you encounter one of these animals.

“Best to not to approach the bear,” he said. “Keep your distance, but don’t retreat either. If you turn around and start running it will activate their prey drive.”

Metts said bears are opportunistic. If they think your garbage or your pet’s food is an easy lunch, they’ll go for it.

“They’re generally very timid creatures,” he said. “So, you’re not going to have to do much of anything to scare it away and make yourself seem larger than what you really are.”

The best option is to get inside your home, if possible, where the bears won’t go.

With alligators, it’s best to leave them be.

“You should assume any body of water that you see has an alligator in it,” Metts said. “In Florida, that is my main rule. It doesn’t matter if it’s a pool, canal, pond, stream, river has an alligator in it. At least one.”

Alligators are considered ambush predators.

“As far as running in a serpentine pattern, I think it’s silly,” he said. “I mean, if you are being chased by an alligator, just get out of the way.”

When encountering any animals in a dangerous situation, it’s best to call Florida Fish and Wildlife.

Nuisance Alligator Hotline: 866-FWC-GATOR (866-392-4286)