ASTOR, Fla. -- A wildlife expert says the alligator that chased and trapped a teen in a tree in Lake County may have been guarding a nest of eggs.

Last week, an alligator estimated to be about 11 feet long trapped a 15-year-old girl in a tree for more than a half-hour before being shot dead by a Lake County deputy.

The deputy shot the alligator, which continued to hiss and threaten the girl in the tree and even the deputy. 

"If it's mating season or it's breeding season, they're out and about. They are moving around, and we like to tell people to expect the unexpected," said Donald Aldarelli, a reptile manager at Gatorland in Orlando.

"This time of the year, in the middle of the summer, she (the alligator) is probably guarding a nest. I can't say for sure, but she exhibits the behavior of a mother guarding her babies," he said.

Every summer, Aldarelli says he hears stories of aggressive alligators throughout Central Florida. In 2015, a woman was attacked by an alligator near Wekiwa Springs. The woman lost her arm but escaped with her life. 

In 2016, 2-year-old Lane Graves was killed by an alligator at Disney World

At Gatorland, Aldarelli says visitors can get close to the alligators, because the reptiles now depend and associate humans with food. However, even this can be dangerous, and he says people can enjoy the water this summer -- but be aware that you may not be alone.

"So if you are this close (about 5 feet), don't go any closer. Back away as fast as you can, because this will probably result in some sort of lunge or some sort of run toward us," Aldarelli said. 

A few more tips from Aldarelli at Gatorland: 

  • If you are being chased by an alligator, they can run fast. So run in a straight line out of their line of sight and try to get to higher ground. 
  • Alligators are more aggressive this time of the year because of nesting season, but for that reason, they typically will not run too far away from their young.