Alligators and YOU

So many friends of the CREW Land & Water Trust love Bird Rookery Swamp and head there on a regular basis for wildlife viewing. The number one, top-of-the-list animal they are there to see?



For first-time visitors, seeing an alligator seems thrilling and exciting until they almost step on one along the tram/trail or have the unfortunate luck to have their path blocked by a sunning gator. In response to a few calls we’ve received over the last few weeks, we’ve compiled some answers to frequently asked alligator questions.

Why are there so many alligators at Bird Rookery Swamp?

Bird Rookery Swamp is prime amazing fantastic Grade-A alligator habitat. It’s like an alligator gated community. Some of the neighbors keep to themselves, some live in the way back where it’s pretty private, and others like to walk around in their front yards and yell about HOA regulations.

Well, maybe not that last part, but you get the idea.

The CREW Project is 60,000-acres and is first and foremost land preserved for water, and second land preserved for wildlife. And Bird Rookery Swamp does a great job holding water and housing alligators. Who then meet up with other alligators and, well – you know the rest.

Why don’t you have rangers there to warn people about the alligators?

Let’s do a CREW Trust two-sentence refresher:

The CREW Land & Water Trust is a nonprofit conservation organization that is part of the greater CREW Project. We provide environmental education at the three (soon to be four) trail systems within the CREW Project.

What isn’t in that sentence? We – the CREW Trust- do not own the land. There is no fee to access the public lands that are owned and managed by South Florida Water Management District. So, no rangers. We do have FWC law enforcement that patrol within the 60,000-acre project. But, again, no paid rangers.

We do have volunteers who are on the trails during programs and as trail stewards, but with around 40-volunteers, we do not have someone permanently stationed at Bird Rookery Swamp to inform folks about alligators.


Where can I find information about the alligators at Bird Rookery Swamp?

In the parking lot. At the kiosk. At the second kiosk at the end of the shell path before you turn onto the boardwalk. At the talking trail post on the boardwalk. AND at the end of the boardwalk before you step down onto the grassy tram.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, South Florida Water Management District and the CREW Trust have multiple signs, starting in the parking lot, that offer information about alligators and what to do when in their presence.

(That’s kind of important right there- what should HUMANS do in presence of alligators – because humans are walking into the homes of the alligators and not vice versa)

FWC has fantastic alligator resources! Please check a few of these out:

Wildlife Viewing Ethics

Living with Alligators

What should I do if an alligator is laying on the path and blocking my way?

Try saying “Hey Susan move over!”

If that doesn’t work, and it probably won’t even if the alligator is named Susan, you have to either turn around and go back the way you came or have a seat and wait. (This is a good time to remind you to pack water and snacks if you go to Bird Rookery Swamp).

Because of how the Bird Rookery Swamp trail is shaped – a number 9 – there really is only one way out and one way in, so an alligator sunning itself across the tram can create quite a long day for a group of hikers.


You cannot throw rocks at the alligator or poke it with a stick. It is illegal to harass an alligator and this is regulated by FWC Law Enforcement.

Will alligators bite me or my dog or my children?

We do not have any record of such incidents occurring and we would like to keep it that way.

A great resource for answers to this question, and more related to alligators and biting, is the FWC human-alligator incident fact sheet.

A few notable excerpts from that fact sheet:

  • ” Be aware of the possible presence of alligators when in or near fresh or brackish water.
  • Negative alligator encounters may occur when people do not pay close attention to their
    surroundings when working or recreating near water.
  • Closely supervise children when they are playing in or around water
  • Observe and photograph alligators only from a safe distance. Remember, they are an
    important part of Florida’s natural history as well as an integral component of freshwater
  • Leave alligators alone. State law prohibits killing, harassing or possessing alligators
    except under permit.
  • Never remove an alligator from its natural habitat or accept one as a pet.”

And probably the most important take-away from the FWC fact sheet:

The likelihood of a Florida resident being seriously injured during an unprovoked alligator incident in Florida is roughly only one in 3.2 million. 


I do not feel comfortable with the large number of alligators at Bird Rookery Swamp. What can I do about this?

One of the best things about Southwest Florida is that we have so many great places to walk and experience nature. A primitive trail system where humans are directly sharing space with native wildlife may not be for everyone, and we understand that.

If you would like to increase your comfort level, we encourage you to sign up for one of our guided walks with a volunteer naturalist at Bird Rookery Swamp. Or visit the CREW Marsh Trails or Cypress Dome Trails which have significantly less alligators.

If you would prefer to hike someplace that does not share the trail directly with wildlife, we encourage you to explore other trails in the area, such as Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, the Gordon River Greenway and Naples Preserve.

Trail conditions at the newly-reopened Bird Rookery Swamp

Oh, hello people. Where’ve you been?

Thank you everyone for all of the happy comments on our blog, in our inboxes, in private messages an Facebook and in comments on social media. We’re just as excited as you are that Bird Rookery Swamp is finally open!

The closure wasn’t just hard on staff, or our visitors. It was really hard on our volunteers. Many of them started volunteering with us because they visited Bird Rookery Swamp so often and feel a connection to that trail system and the flora and fauna that call it home.

As soon as it opened, our BRS regulars hit the trails and sent us happy selfies, trail condition reports and photos.

Volunteer Peter Davis, an avid cyclist who leads a private buided bike tour that is exclusively offered at our silent auction each year, sent us this trail conditions report aimed mainly at cyclists – but it’s great information for those hikers that like to do the whole almost-13 mile loop.

A summary of Peter Davis’ report from 3/12/2018
–  Work by the South Florida Water Management District’s contractor has improved portions of the trail that needed attention prior to the hurricane. 
–  The trail is in relatively good condition for cycling up until the fork at approximately mile 2.
–  Around mile 3 and onward the trail gets softer and there are sections of tall grass and other plants that make it hard to see the trail below the vegetation in some areas.
–  There are no places that require a water crossing, no large trees down, and no places where the mud is too deep the get through.  
–  Accomplished cyclists with wider tires on their bike should be able to do the whole trail without stopping or dismounting if they choose to do so.  
–  As usual, there are many alligators sunning themselves on the trail.  Note from staff: always keep a safe distance from wildlife; to read more on ethically viewing wildlife, visit
–  The wildlife viewing seems much better than in the past both in terms of quantity and quality.
–  Between mile 8 and 9.5 there are some deeper mud/water holes on the trail that are hard to see in the vegetation so please use caution.
–  Anyone planning to turn around should go counter-clockwise, as the most difficult trail sections start about a mile to the left of the fork.
Don’t forget you can sign up for our free weekly guided walks at Bird Rookery Swamp, offered each Wednesday at 9 a.m. through the end of March! Sign up on And we look forward to seeing you on the trails!

Bike the 12 mile loop at Bird Rookery Swamp

Bike Tours at Bird Rookery Swamp

Friday, January 8, 2016 from 8:00 AM to 12:00 PMBike the loop


Start the New Year off on the right “pedal” and bike Bird Rookery Swamp in Naples Florida. Join CREW Trust volunteer Peter Tomlinson for this exciting guided bicycle tour of the full 12-mile loop at Bird Rookery Swamp.

Activity Level: Strenuous

This is a trail ride on uneven, soft, grassy/sandy trails. Ground level with swamp on both sides of the trail. View beautiful scenery, great wildlife, and enjoy the company of like-minded souls.

BRING YOUR OWN BICYCLE: Mountain, hybrid or fat tire bikes are recommended. Not appropriate for road bicycles. CREW does NOT provide bikes for this tour.

Participants MUST be able to bike for 3 to 4 hours, stopping for short breaks every few miles.

Participants MUST wear a helmet, bring flat-tire repair gear, bring and carry their own water, snacks/lunch, sun/rain protection, insect repellent. No SAG support will be provided (no repair support).

Camera, binoculars optional.

No restrooms are available after the start of the ride.

Space is limited to first 12 riders to register. Registration is required.

Register here:

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