When Gators Attack

It sounds like bad late night cable: "When Gators Attack." But as CBS News Correspondent Mark Strassmann reports, Floridians know better.

Alligators show up anywhere here: from people's backyards to the local elementary school.

Once endangered and protected, 1 million gators thrive again in Florida.

Now it's people looking for protection.

Attacks are rare, but is the threat real?

"The threat of attacks is real," says Arnold Burnell, of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Game Commission. "Alligators are dangerous. They just aren't evil."

Tell that to Bill Griffin

Last June, right off a marina, his 12-year-old son Bryan went swimming, ignoring warnings about a gator lurking nearby.

Keith Buse, the marina's owner, saw the gator in the middle of the water and Bryan in its mouth.

"Heart-wrenching," says Buse. "I mean, words can't describe it, you know."

All he wanted to do is help, says Buse, "and there's nothing you can do"

That gator measured more than 10 feet long.

Brian died at the hospital.

"You wonder, how could this happpen? I mean, you think it would be safer than what it actually is," says Griffin.

For alligators, all of Florida's lakes and canals are just a freeway system, leading to somebody's backyard. Development keeps pushing deeper into wetlands, and sometimes alligators push back.

Of Florida's original 20 million acres of wetlands, nearly half have been lost.

"There are so many gators in the Everglades, they're actually looking for another food source," says one trapper.

They're looking where Bryan Griffin went swimming, in waters called the "Dead River.

"Which life is more valuable, an alligator or a child? I think I'm going to choose the human life over the alligator any day," says Bryan's father.

Floridians complain the state's too crowded.

They're not just talking about people.