Aggressive alligators have forced park officials in Polk County to block access to a nature trail out of fear for visitor safety.
Mating season is in full swing at the Circle B Bar Reserve, a 1,267-acre site on the northwest shores of Lake Hancock. Over the past few years the gators have taken a liking to building their nests on the Marsh Rabbit Run Trail.
Since alligators often become territorial and protective of their nests and their young, the reserve has decided to close down access to the Marsh Rabbit Run Trail for the fourth year in a row.
"We've had signs of the alligators coming too close to the trail at this point," said Tabitha Biehl, environmental land stewardship coordinator. "So we've closed the trail off for their safety as well as the safety of our visitors."
Biehl said she teaches park visitors to pay close attention to the places where they should and shouldn't be and also to not wait for an alligator to turn aggressive before retreating.
"It's mostly just education, letting them know if you see an alligator in the middle of the trail it's their home, not your home. Turn around and go the other way," she said.
The reserve plans to keep the trail closed through alligator hatching season, which is typically sometime in August.