(CNN)When authorities announced that a 2-year-old boy had been grabbed Tuesday night by an alligator near a Walt Disney World resort hotel in Florida, few people understood the plight of the boy's parents quite like Donna and Gary Weidenhamer.
- Always give these reptiles a respectful distance -- at least 10 feet -- and always leave them alone.
- If you encounter an alligator outside its natural habitat, call the Nuisance Alligator Hotline: 1-866-FWC-GATOR (392-4286).
- Alligators are nocturnal animals, more active during the night. After dark, avoid fresh and brackish bodies of water, though alligators sometimes lurk in salt water. Unprovoked bites will often occur at the edge of the water.
- Never feed alligators; it encourages them to lose their natural fear of people.
- Small animals, like pets, and small children are generally more at risk than large adults.
- Female alligators protect their nests by hissing and opening their mouths; this does not mean they are preparing to attack.
- Alligators under 4 feet in length are not considered a threat to humans.
- The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission documented 383 unprovoked alligator bites between 1948 and 2016: 257 serious bites, with 23 resulting in death.
- The frequency of serious bites is increasing at a rate of about 3% each year: one additional bite every four or five years.