Gator sightings on the rise as mating season begins

COLLIER COUNTY, Fla - Recent brush fires and wet weather is ushering in alligator mating season.

The creatures are more active this time of year and tend to end up closer to populated areas.

"I just fielded some calls where I had a Gator that was in a Koi pond, a Gator that was in a swimming pool, a couple of swimming pools actually, underneath a vehicle, in the garage," said Ray Simonsen, a licensed alligator hunter.

Ray wrangled this gator from a garage in Collier County the Wednesday, and on Thursday, a Ft. Myers woman shot cell phone video of a gator swimming in her pool.

"We've had some substantial rain the past couple of days, the water levels are kicking up, but we've also had wild brush fires displacing a lot of wildlife, gators included," said Simonsen.

During mating season larger gators will often displace smaller ones from lakes and streams.

Florida has a controlled gator hunting season, which runs from August 15th through November.

Simonsen says the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission has a good idea about how many gators can be taken, without hurting the population.

"FWC puts a lot of time, effort and resources and they have some of the brightest biologists, the alligator program in particular, they've got exceptional staff."

Unless you have a permit to hunt a gator, it's illegal to harass or feed one.

Ray says you should keep garage doors closed as much as possible and keep an eye on your pool and backyard.

Gator attacks are rare, but if you find yourself in that situation where you have to defend yourself:

"You have to do what is necessary at the time, but there better be just cause."

If you spot a nuisance gator you're asked to call 866-FWC-GATOR, or 9-1-1.  The permit application period for gator hunting season begins May 18th.

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