By: WPC Safety and Risk Director - Christina Skirvin -
WPC has been building in Florida for almost 50 years, and one thing we’ve learned is that Florida is a wild place for many different reasons. We are a state with some of the highest biodiversity numbers in the United States. Where else can you go and see dolphins, crocodiles, manatees, snakes, turtles, gators, panthers, humans, black bears, dozens of bird species, tons of fish, and so much more?! Florida is truly a special place. But anytime you’re clearing a new area, you must take the necessary steps to stay safe around wildlife and prevent hurting them, too!
There are an estimated 1.3 million alligators in Florida. They live in all 67 counties and can be found in almost any body of water.
Alligators grow to an average size of 800 pounds and 13 feet long.
The largest gator ever recorded in Florida was 17’5” long!
They have a running speed of 10 mph.
If an alligator is ever chasing you on land you should run in a zig zag pattern, as you can more easily turn than a gator can.
Alligators typically stay submerged for 20 – 30 minutes at a time, making them hard to detect before you’re within their striking distance.
Gators are found to be more aggressive during mating season from mid-April through May.
Alligator attacks are more common when there is a loss of habitat or irresponsible behavior from humans (feeding them, approaching, and harassing them, etc.)
You should give gators a safe distance of at least 50 feet.
If an alligator ever bites you, make the most noise possible and work hard to get away. Use force and poke their eyes, if necessary. This is the best way to try to get a gator to let you go.
Florida is home to 46 species of native snakes, 6 of which are venomous.
35 of the species can be found in Central Florida.
4 of the 6 venomous species can only be found in North Florida.
Water Moccasins are the most common venomous snake and can grow up to 12 feet long!
Snakes are grouped by their most obvious markings. Either diamonds, blotches, rings, lengthwise stripes, or mostly solid color without obvious markings.
If you’re ever bit by a snake you should do the following:
Wash the bite with soap and water.
Keep the bitten area still and lower than your heart.
Cover the area with a clean, cool compress to ease swelling and discomfort.
Monitor breathing and heart rate.
Remove all rings, watches, and constrictive clothing, in case of swelling.
Note the time of the bite and, if possible, draw a circle around the affected area.
Monitor for dizziness, blurred vision, excessive sweating, increased thirst or breathing difficulties.
Seek medical treatment.
To prevent snakebites always wear work boots and tall socks when walking around the project, especially in tall grass. And if you see a snake, leave him alone.
A total of 6 species of turtles exists in Florida, all of which are threatened with extinction.
Keeping your jobsites clean and free of food debris will also help to prevent visits from smaller wildlife, such as racoons, skunks, rats, etc.
If you ever find racoon feces on your project, make sure you’re wearing gloves and eye/face protection when cleaning it up. Parasites and diseases can be transmitted from the feces to humans.
Be very cautious if you do encounter a racoon as they are known to violently defend themselves and can carry rabies.
A skunk spray smell can last up to 3 weeks!
Finding critters in the wild isn’t unusual. We just need to make sure we’re doing our best to live in harmony with them and not allow our human activities to force us to interact with them anymore than we must. By giving these creatures extra space, we can help to prevent anyone from being sprayed, bitten, or attacked.