Fleeing the police, a suspected car burglar named Justo Padron ran from the parking lot of the Miccosukee casino in western Miami-Dade County and jumped into an adjacent pond.
A nine-foot alligator seized him, and his death in 2007 marked the last time anyone in Florida has been killed by one of the giant reptiles. That five-year stretch without a fatal attack ties the record set from 1979 to 1983. Assuming nobody is killed in the next two months, a new record will be set on New Year's Day.
Florida wildlife officials don't expect the death-free span to go on forever, pointing to two attacks in 2012 that could have easily become fatalities, in which each victim lost an arm.
"I think it's just luck," said Lindsey Hord, coordinator of the nuisance alligator program for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. "It's probably just a matter of time."
Several major alligator bites over the past few years involved the same risky behavior that can lead to fatal attacks, he said, such as swimming near alligators or feeding them.
He said the absence of fatalities may be a result of increases in hunting quotas, the decision to expand the territory on which hunting is allowed, the appointment of more trappers and an increase in public education.
"We doubled number of nuisance alligator trappers," he said. "Now we have multiple trappers in an area where we might have had just one.''
Much of the increase followed a horrific series of attacks in 2006, when alligators killed three people in less than a week, leading some to wonder if the state's soaring population and expanding suburbs meant we had entered a new era of killings by alligators.
The first attack took place May 10 in Sunrise, when a 28-year-old jogger was killed after she took a rest and dangled her feet over a canal near Markham Park. A few days later a trapper killed a nine-and-a-half-foot alligator nearby, and inside were discovered her severed arms. An eight-and-a-half-foot alligator killed a women in a canal in Pinellas County. Then an 11-foot alligator killed a snorkeler in a lake in Marion County.
With all the attention, the number of "nuisance alligator" complaints soared, and trappers dispatched by the wildlife agency killed a record 11,664 alligators, up from 9,094 the previous year. The next several years saw a decline in complaints, but the numbers remained well above those of the 1990s.
The number of gators killed by hunters also rose, with 6,709 killed on state lands last year, up from 2,161 a decade before.
Charles Lee, advocacy director for Audubon of Florida, said the state may be going too far in allowing the killing of large alligators, which play an important ecological role as top predators.
"I think the trapper harvest program is bordering on the edge of going overboard," he said. "From my personal ramblings in Florida, I believe we have exacted an inappropriate penalty on the existence of large, iconic alligators in a natural setting around the state. You just don't see them the way you used to.''
Last month near a nature preserve in St. Petersburg, for example, a hunter killed a well-known, much-loved 13-foot alligator nicknamed Big Al under controversial circumstances that inspired a petition and calls for an investigation.
"Somebody thought there's a big alligator there so someone ought to go in and get it, and apparently the big alligator had been there about 30 years without incident," Lee said. "There was an outcry from citizens who were used to seeing the alligator in the park.''
Since 1948 there have been 22 fatal attacks in Florida, as well as 206 major bites and 116 minor bites, according to the wildlife agency.
Classified as an endangered species in 1967, the alligator rebounded in the 1970s, and the state reinstated hunting in 1988. Today, the agency estimates there are more than 1.3 million alligators in Florida.
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