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Wednesday, 21 March, 2001, 10:34 GMT
Florida on alligator alert
alligator
People are advised not to feed wild alligators
By Malcolm Brabant in Miami

The record drought in the American state of Florida is creating a new hazard in residential areas.

Low water levels are driving alligators out of the Everglades - the vast swamp that dominates the southern part of the state - and into people's back gardens.

The drought is killing off the alligators' fish supplies and many are going hungry. Some animal experts say the situation is so dire that the reptiles may soon start feeding on their young.

The search for food has led to many alligators moving into canals and ponds in suburbs built on reclaimed swampland.

Hotline

The Seminole Indian tribe, which sees itself as the protector of the Everglades, has set up a phone hotline for residents who are worried about alligators in their back gardens. So far they have received nearly 200 calls.

Specially trained trappers are being despatched to capture the alligators and release them deep in the Everglades.

The tribe is advising people not to try to feed the creatures, which can grow to four metres, as they are not able to distinguish between human hands and the titbits being proffered.

There is another good reason not to disturb them - alligator testosterone levels are running pretty high right now because it is the mating season.

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10 Aug 00 | Sci/Tech
Vanishing reptiles prompt concern
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