Sunday, April 06, 2008

It's Spring: Reptiles are Frisky

Article from
About 2 1/2 million alligators inhabit more than 90 percent of the lakes and streams in Florida. And, with warmer weather, all those reptiles are beginning to rouse from their winter slumber with two things on their peanut-sized brains -- finding another alligator to breed with and catching up on a few missed meals.

Those two factors, coupled with the huge influx of humans into the state, make encounters more prevalent, said Nick Clark, the Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Garden's senior reptile keeper. "We're coming up on the breeding season that's getting ready to start, so alligators will be moving around, a little bit more active and maybe a little bit more in the public eye right now," Clark said. "So, we want to try to help people understand what to do and what not to do to avoid negative encounters with the animals."

To educate residents on how to handle encounters with the reptiles, as well as how to avoid them, the zoo offers alligator-awareness classes. Its first of the season was March 25, and another will be June 3. On a recent Tuesday night, about 15 people showed up to listen and learn from Clark, who spent about two hours dispelling myths, relaying stories and offering advice.

"What we're trying to help people do is coexist with some of the wildlife we have here in Florida," Clark said. "We do have a lot of people that move into the state of Florida every day, and a lot of time all they hear is the horror stories."

The class is the zoo's way of making sure people are aware -- not afraid -- of the big reptiles.

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