Folks, especially newcomers, need to do a little alligator research

A large American alligator rests in the shade of a bridge over the Myakka River at Myakka River State Park.

As a teenager in the early 1960s, living on the banks of the Myakka River at Snook Haven, I remember having a number of gators around. There were not a lot of them however, as a good number of poachers would comb the river almost nightly with airboats, despite a total ban on killing gators at the time.

We kids had no fear whatsoever of the big reptiles and would swim in the river at Snook Haven and at a rope swing farther upstream on a regular basis in summer. Very rarely did you ever hear of anyone being bitten there, or anyplace else for that matter.

My folks had a bald-headed tenant by the name of Boone, wore a coonskin cap and claimed to be kin  with Daniel Boone who would feed 'possums to a 9-foot gator that began hanging around and killed my mother's dog.

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We had warned him not to do that and the result was inevitable. The gator lost its fear of humans, expected to be fed  and would come out of the water to get what it wanted.

Nowadays, alligator encounters seem to be more and more common all the time. Not only as humans encroach on their habitat, they are creating more, with countless freshwater holding and revetment ponds being built in developments and golf courses far into the hinterlands of our state.

Once again, gators are protected to some extent, with a limited harvest by lottery permit.

Newcomers to Florida, especially those setting up housekeeping east of I-75, would do well by doing a little gator research at — Google 'Learn how to be alligator aware' is another good option.

This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Folks, especially newcomers, need to do a little alligator research