Why are gators wandering on to Tampa Bay area roads?

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – It happened two times in just as many days.    

Two alligators were hit by oncoming traffic after they wandered onto busy roads in Tampa Bay, putting local drivers in danger.

Calun Nelson of Wimauma was injured when he hit a gator on Friday. The last we checked, he was upgraded to good condition at Tampa General Hospital.

Jennifer Rosinksi of Cooper City also ran into a gator and sustained some cuts and bruises.

“All of a sudden,” Rosinski said, “I just started to see something dart across the road and my car spun counter-clockwise and according to the trooper it went airborne and it rolled six or seven times.”

On Tuesday, Rosinski was heading north on I-75 near North Port, when a gator walked in front of her SUV and was hit.

Once the vehicle and the gator collided, the SUV went airborne and flipped several times. Remarkably, Rosinski made it out safely.

Three days later, on Friday morning, a second gator, nearly 11-feet long, walked right in front of Nelson’s motorcycle on State Road 674 in Sarasota County.

When the motorcycle and the gator collided, the bike flipped and landed on it’s side.  The gator was left in critical condition  We’re told it put up quite a fight, but it died late Friday afternoon.

“We secured his jaws and then when we got to move him, he was moving around,” said alligator trapper Rob Upthegrove, who was at the scene of the crash on Friday.

Many locals are wondering why we’re seeing an uptick of gator versus vehicle accidents. Experts say one reason is that alligators are downright thirsty.

Upthegrove has been wrangling gators for years. News Channel 8 first met Upthegrove about a year ago when he was called in to get a gator out of a New Tampa Park.

“It’s just unusual for Florida at this moment that we’re in a drought, at the same time coming out of mating season,” said Upthegrove when asked about the presence of gators on roadways.

He tells us dominant gators are pushing weaker gators out of the water, and these wandering gators are oftentimes just searching for water.

“They create gator holes, where they stay in and survive droughts,” he told News Channel 8.

As for Rosinski, she’s just glad she survived her close encounter, especially for the sake of her four children.

“But when I finally started rolling and came to and kind of just woke up, I was kind of overcome with relief that I knew I was going to be ok,” Rosinski said.

The gator involved in Rosinski’s accident also passed away.

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