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'They learn from people feeding them': Alligator expert says increase in attacks is from human interaction

The latest attack injured a 13-year-old girl in Zolfo Springs, Florida.

ZOLFO SPRINGS, Fla. — It’s happened again. Another alligator attack. This time in Hardee County.

Florida Fish and Wildlife officers say on Sunday at around 2:30 p.m. a 13-year-old girl was bitten by a gator near a boat ramp in Zolfo Springs.

The girl was taken to the hospital and is expected to survive.

This was the latest in a recent string of alligator attacks in Florida over the past few weeks. The increased frequency of such incidents has some questioning whether some alligators are beginning to regard humans as prey.

10 Tampa Bay reached out to ZooTampa’s Spencer Schultz. Schultz is a herpetologist – or someone who specializes in the study of reptiles and amphibians.

“I don’t think alligators naturally view us as a meal,” Schultz said. “They learn from people feeding them. Chicken or other meats and stuff. Smaller food items. So, I don’t think that they look as at humans as food items. Now, they might look at small dogs as a quick meal. But not humans themselves.”

RELATED: 13-year-old girl hospitalized for alligator bite in Zolfo Springs

“I don’t think it’s evolutionary,” Schultz continuned. “I think something like that would take a lot longer to develop. I think that they’re more defensive behaviors – or learning from people giving them meals.”

The more likely reason for an increase in incidents, Schultz said, is that there are more alligators now – 1.3-million according to FWC’s most recent estimate – and a lot more humans too.

As we encroach on their habitat, he expects we will see more of these sorts of encounters.

RELATED: Sarasota man seriously hurt after being bitten by alligator in Myakka City, FWC says

RELATED: Medical examiner: Alligators killed elderly woman at Englewood country club

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