Florida has a reputation as one of the US’ greatest holiday destinations, and while thousands of people flock there every year seeking sun, sand and relaxation, it’s worth remembering that the state is home to some exotic – and deadly – creatures. Animal attacks are fortunately very rare, and certainly shouldn’t put you off booking a summer holiday in Florida through a provider like Florida4Less.
That said, this guide to some of the state’s most dangerous animals could just save your life:
Florida is home to the world’s largest species of alligator, which lives in swamps and wetlands that often overlap with human-populated areas. Despite their fearsome reputation, gators are actually far less aggressive than their cousins, the crocodiles, and will usually stay well away from people unless they feel threatened.
Full-grown alligators can reach up to 13 feet long, with around 80 teeth that are more than capable of making a meal of tasty humans. There have been 275 alligator attacks on people since 1948, and if you want to avoid a similar fate, follow these simple rules:
• Don’t swim in areas with long grasses – these are typical alligator habitats
• Be particularly careful during mating season (May to June)
• Never approach or attempt to feed them
If you want to get closer to gators but don’t fancy losing an arm, pay a visit to Gatorland in Orlando, a 110-acre theme park where you can see wrestling and rare white alligators.
Florida has some impressively venomous snakes, such as the diamondback rattlesnake – the biggest and deadliest snake in the country. These are usually found in the pine flatwoods and nest in gopher holes, so keep an eye out for these on your travels. Other rattlers found in Florida include the dusky pygmy and the canebrake, which are less dangerous but can still give you a nasty bite. Cottonmouths, which make their home near water, are much more aggressive and also have potentially fatal venom.
The best way to avoid snake attacks is to be familiar with their habitats and be particularly careful around these areas while you’re on a hike. Wear thick boots and baggy trousers while out and about, and always back away from a rearing snake – they will usually give you plenty of warning before they strike.
As if snakes and alligators weren’t enough, the coast of Florida is periodically home to large populations of stinging jellyfish. They are most common in March and April, and although the vast majority of them aren’t a big concern, Florida does see the occasional influx of the Portuguese Man o’ War, which can give an extremely painful and occasionally fatal sting. The Lion’s Mane and box jellyfish are also found in the state’s waters.
Lifeguards will usually post a warning when dangerous marine life, including jellyfish, are nearby. Look out for the purple flag that indicates this and keep out of the water! Florida has many aquariums where you can observe these beautiful and colourful creatures in safety.