During school outings and community events over the next few years, that fatality would haunt me. Alligators were few and far between in the 70's. They were endangered and numbered around 10,000 in the state compared to their historic numbers which have been estimated to be 4 million in Florida alone. But it hadn't occurred to me that this was a rare incident - an unfortunate accident. In my head, alligators were bad and this was a bad park.
When you consider that 40,000 people are murdered annually in the United States, it puts into perspective the causalities from alligators, let alone any wild animal. That's not to say that we should ignore the threat, but respect the animal and its natural behaviors. Typically people are too big for an alligator to consider as a meal, but on rare occasions they bite off more than they can literally chew. In fact alligators can't even chew. They chomp. But I digress. Today there are more people in Florida than ever and alligator populations are estimated at around 2 million. That means more alligator and human interactions.
At least 13 of the 21 fatalities from alligator attacks happened while swimming. When you swim you tend to splash and thrash. An alligator may perceive it to be an wounded animal - an easy meal. I don't swim with caution around alligators. I just don't swim around alligators at all.