375 Sanctuary Road West, Naples, FL
Big Island Excavating, 19720 Immokalee Road
COLLIER COUNTY — In the past week, a half dozen alligators have been found dead along a stretch of Immokalee Road west of Oil Well Road in Golden Gate Estates.
On Friday, the sixth dead alligator was found.
Despite the rains, Southwest Florida is experiencing a drought and wildlife officials said that's putting alligators on the hunt for a new habitat. Some are moving from their dried out homes near Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary to a quarry about a mile south of the marshy lands on the east side of the sanctuary.
But as the alligators, typically the younger ones, cross Immokalee Road to a quarry at Big Island Excavating, they're being struck and killed by drivers who don't see them, or can't stop in time.
"I'm saddened by the unnecessary demise of the alligators," said Bill McDaniel, owner of Big Island Excavating. "It's also a traffic hazard. Folks who don't often see them are stopping, looking and taking pictures. That's the biggest impact we're seeing."
Jason Lauritson, assistant director at Audubon of Florida Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, said alligators are able to sniff out watering holes and as their swamps dry up, they are able to pick up the scent of the quarry.
McDaniel said he usually sees five or six alligators lounging in the quarry a day and the alligators crossing the street were either on the hunt for water, food or a mate.
As alligator mating season wraps up, the alligators are just trying to escape the heat in the water, Lauritson said.
As the rains continue the migrations should cease and the alligators should be able to find new habitats, said Tony Young, spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
"But we'll really need a lot of rain to get the water levels back to a normal level," Young said. "It's going to take one or two tropical depressions to hang out over Florida."
Until that happens, they're asking drivers and curious citizens to regard them as deer crossing the road and to be more cautious.