Are There Alligators in Tampa Bay?

Updated On October 3, 2023
Tampa

Word has it you’ll hardly hear of a place in Florida where you won’t find alligators.

They’re so common in Tampa Bay and other locations that the state tells people how to live with them.

So… Are There Alligators in Tampa Bay?

The State of Florida has the second-highest number of alligators in the United States.

The estimated count of them totals about 1.3 million. 

I’m not sure how many alligators you can find in Tampa Bay.

With all that are found in Florida, it could be thousands. 

One of the reports said that hundreds of them are present in one Tampa location alone, but I had to find out if it was true.

Turns out it is, but this particular spotting doesn’t occur directly in Tampa Bay. 

Rumor of Alligator Presence Confirmed True

I did find out where these hundreds of alligators could be, and they’re about two hours south of Tampa, FL.

ABC Action News reported Deep Hole, which is southwest of the Lower Myakka Lake in Sarasota County, as the location in 2017. 

Countless locals and visitors have attested to Deep Hole’s whereabouts as a place to view more alligators than most people would see in a lifetime.

The alligator behavior has changed some, according to Hike it Florida (2017): 

“I’ve been wanting to go back to Deep Hole for a while…and it was worth the wait! We canoed through the Lower Lake years ago and saw alligators, but they were swimming around. Not piled up all over the place like they were today. I have never seen anything like this before!”

It looks to me like it’s overcrowding of alligators.

If you try to canoe here, it would defy all that I’ve told you.

The advice given to me was to stay away from alligators if at all possible. 

This viewing spot is not for the fainthearted.

That’s for sure, and to hike or canoe through here?

I don’t think I’d be doing that anytime soon unless I was trained or on a guided tour with the proper protection. 

It seems like a gator overcrowding to me.

Maybe it’s time for some of them to relocate to a state that doesn’t have them. 

Alligator Species in Tampa Bay 

The only alligator in the U.S. and in Tampa Bay is the American Alligator.

You may, however, also occasionally spot the American Crocodile here too.

I hear Tampa Bay is about as far north as either gators or crocs make it in Florida. 

Is it Safe to Swim in Tampa Bay? 

You can usually swim in Tampa Bay with no problem.

Most alligator attacks around the world result from provocation.

Don’t bother them, and they will usually leave you alone unless maybe they haven’t eaten in days and can’t find any food. 

Eating you is unlikely, however, because alligators don’t have that picky of a diet.

Humans are probably the last on their minds as a menu item.

Still, take routine cautionary measures just in case. 

Higher on the priority list than alligators, beware of tides, tropical storms, and water pollution.

Always watch reports about dangerous animals and weather before you swim.

By the way, Tampa also has saltwater jellyfish, some of which sting.

Be careful. 

Tampa Bay
Tampa Bay

Interesting Alligator Facts in Tampa Bay

I enjoy reading the alligator stories I find, and they’re believable.

After all, it’s Florida we’re talking about, not Oregon, Washington, or another non-alligator state.

I learn from these stories how alligators behave and how people survive encounters from all the stories I read about them.

Alligator Attack Survival Story

On August 3, 2022, Oldsmar, FL firefighter Juan Carlos La Verde took a swim in Lake Thonotosassa.

Only 20 minutes from downtown Tampa, La Verde made an impact with a hard object. 

That object turned out to be an alligator swimming underwater coming at him.

La Verde mentioned the scales, tongue, and teeth of a “huge animal that looked like a Jurassic beast.” 

Somehow, La Verde managed to open the jaw of this 12-foot-long creature.

Then, he swam away as fast as he could.

He did survive, but that didn’t mean he didn’t need emergency care. 

Alligator attacks like the one La Verde experienced are rare.

Not everyone experiences the blood loss, nerve damage, and multiple back, head, and shoulder injuries that he did. 

La Verde will face a long recovery.

He also had plans to possibly undergo reconstructive surgery as of September 2022.

It may be a miracle that he survived this attack at all. 

A Crocodile “Nomad” Story

Alligators and crocodiles are not the same.

I know.

Still, I found this croc story that originated only about 41 minutes from Tampa, FL worth telling.

This story dates back further than the alligator attack survival story I told earlier.

In 2013, state wildlife experts found an 11-foot-long croc at Lake Tarpon.

It traveled about 350 miles from Turkey Point in Miami-Dade County. 

Researchers know it’s the same crocodile because they mark them to identify them if they do move.

In this case, the croc moved a significant amount. 

Apparently, this creature didn’t follow the same journey as the majority of its kind found in either Key Largo or Turkey Point.

It reportedly wandered around solo and made its way to the Grey Oaks Country Club in Naples

This 8-foot-long (and then some) croc’s new home after that was the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Reserve located south of Naples.

However, it didn’t stay there.

It returned to the country club where authorities originally found it.

Then, it roamed some more.

Then, it disappeared again after making its way to Lake Tarpon.

It seemed to slip out of the hands, so to speak, of anyone who thought of capturing it and keeping it in one location. 

Alligators vs. Crocodiles

I wouldn’t have known the difference between alligators and crocodiles before I studied their features.

From a distance, you may not distinguish them.

When you look a little closer, you can probably tell them apart. 

Preferred Habitat

Both alligators and crocodiles prefer hot weather.

However, alligators like freshwater better than salt water because of how their breathing system works.

If an alligator were to try to live in saltwater, it probably would only be able to stand it for up to about three or four days. 

Physical Appearance

Alligators have rounder, wider snouts than a crocodile.

A crocodile has a longer, pointier snout than an alligator. 

You’ll notice that a crocodile typically has more olive green hues in it than an alligator would, so an alligator usually appears darker.

Alligators do have a light-colored underbelly though, and so does the croc. 

Skin

An alligator has smoother, smaller scales than a crocodile.

A Crocodile’s skin appears rougher, but the formation displays more of a symmetrical pattern than for an alligator.

Alligators have large scales in the middle and smaller scales outward. 

Weight 

Of these two types of crocodilian creatures, the crocodile usually averages a higher weight of about 1,000 pounds.

They can weigh as much as 2,200 pounds though.

The alligator typically only weighs an average of about 500-600 pounds as an adult male.

Some of them can weigh 1,000 pounds or more though. 

Length

In addition to weighing more, crocodiles usually grow longer than alligators.

Alligators will grow an average of 8-12 feet, but alligators can extend from more than 20 feet while growing an average of 10 feet. 

Both the length and weight of alligators and crocodiles can vary quite a bit though.

Females usually weigh and measure less than males. 

Alligator
Alligator

3 Safety Tips for Swimming in Alligator-infested Waters 

There are really more than three, and one not included here is to not feed alligators.

You especially should never throw fish scraps at them in or outside of the water. 

1. Don’t tease alligators. 

I wouldn’t even swim in a place where alligators are found.

However, you can’t always blame yourself if you happen to see someone not expecting it.

If you do see it, don’t try to tease or provoke it.

That will increase your chance of attack. 

2. Don’t make a scene if you see one. 

Try not to scream, for instance.

That could startle the gator and cause a bite if you’re too close to it.

Leave the water as quietly as possible.

Don’t run because that could cause water ripples and aggravate the large reptile in your vicinity. 

3. Prepare a rescue hand signal. 

Whether it be for a gator or other water emergency, prepare a hand wave or other signal.

Then, use it when you need it to alert someone on shore that you need help.

Hopefully, you also have someone in the water with you who can come to your aid or call for assistance too. 

Summary 

Alligators do exist in Tampa Bay.

However, you may find more outside the city of Tampa, Florida. 

Tampa Safety Overview

READ THE FULL REPORT: Tampa Safety Review

Safety Index:
52
  • OVERALL RISK: MEDIUM
  • TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
  • PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW
  • NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM
  • MUGGING RISK: MEDIUM
  • TERRORISM RISK: MEDIUM
  • SCAMS RISK: LOW
  • WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the odds of being bitten by an alligator in Tampa Bay?

I don’t know about the city specifically.

In the state of Florida, it’s about one in 3.1 million.

The odds increase, however, if you provoke them.

Don’t bother them, and they are likely not to bother you.

How do I stay safe when watching alligators?

Only watch in designated viewing areas or on guided tours at aquariums.

Don’t attempt to come near an alligator unless you’re trained to do so and have the proper personal protective equipment (PPE).

Where can I watch alligators in Tampa Bay? 

Swangrass Lake Park is one place.

Of course, I also did mention the “Deep Hole” southwest of Lower Myakka Lake, where you can find them lining the shores as of 2017 and later.

Anyplace near or outside of Tampa, Florida where guided tours are offered is also an excellent place.

I wouldn’t suggest going along without the proper support from others and protection.

How many people die from alligator attacks in Tampa Bay?

I haven’t heard of anyone dying in Tampa Bay from an alligator attack.

It may be none.

There have been four fatal alligator attacks in 10 years in the state of Florida since 2012.

2 Comments on Are There Alligators in Tampa Bay?

  1. D
    David Mobley says:

    Alligators are all over Florida, North to South. Also has highest population of them. Over million

  2. C
    Caveman says:

    It’s always important to be aware of the wildlife in your surroundings, especially when it comes to potentially dangerous creatures like alligators. This blog post provides valuable information about the presence of alligators in Tampa Bay and how to stay safe while enjoying the area. Whether you’re a local or a visitor, it’s always better to be informed and prepared.

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