Put, South Carolina is alligator country. Alligators could be lurking in any body of water. They’ve been known to take a dip in a residential neighborhood pool or even head up onto the beach and catch some waves (seriously). Despite how numerous and common they are, there have only been 11 people bitten by alligators recorded in South Carolina since 1948 and none have been fatal. Whether you’re a native to our state or recently relocated here, reviewing these alligator safety tips can help keep you, your family and your pets safe from the jaws of a gator.
While an alligator can inhabit any body of water, some areas and situations are more common for alligator encounters.
- Recreational and neighborhood waterways – a number of housing developments with lakes, ponds and waterways have acquired a “community alligator”. While those bodies of water are intended for kayaking, paddleboarding and fishing by residents, alligators find them alluring as well.
- Sunning on the banks of a body of water – Alligators will climb out of the water onto the banks to sun themselves for warmth.
- Crossing the road – Alligators don’t always stay put in one body of water. They’re often sighted crossing roads or even traversing across golf courses or other grassy open areas while moving along their way. While they are most likely to roam during the spring and summer breeding seasons, gators can decide to take a stroll any time of year.
- Brush or tall grassy areas along the edge of a body of water – Female alligators are known to locate their nests in the brush and tall grasses found along the egdes of many bodies of water to hide them while still having easy access to the water. Female gators are significantly smaller than males but can be even more aggressive if you get too close to a nest.
Alligator Safety Tips
This list of tips helps both you and others avoid dangerous encounters with alligators:
1. Never feed alligators. Not only is it illegal to feed alligators, doing so makes them associate people with food and makes them more likely to approach humans. Also don’t feed other animals (ducks, turtles, etc) in waters that are known to have gators as well.
2. When fishing, don’t gut and clean fish in waters known to have alligators. Doing so will attract gators to you but as in tip #1, it will make them more likely to approach humans.
3. Keep at least 30 feet away from the edge of any body of water you don’t know well. If you don’t know for sure that a body of water absolutely does NOT have a gator lurking around, keep yourself, your kids and your pets at least 30 feet away from the water’s edge to avoid a gator seeing you as food.
4. Never approach an alligator. Whether you see a gator sunning itself, crossing a road or strolling across a grassy area, never approach them. Keep your distance and let them pass. It is illegal to harass, injure or otherwise interfere with an alligator. It is also illegal for anyone of the general public to kill one.
5. If you happen upon a nest, do not touch any part of the nest, eggs or even hatched babies. First, the mama gator is likely watching unseen and ready to attack. Second, never handle baby alligators. As with any wild animal, being handled by humans can introduce foreign smells that cause the mother to reject or abandon the baby, ultimately resulting in its death. Also, reaching into a nest significantly increases your chances of being attacked by the mama alligator.
6. If you do accidentally encounter an alligator, slowly back away–never run. Running makes you look like prey. Alligators can run much faster than expected for short distances and are faster than most humans. Face the alligator to keep it in your sight and slowly back away. If the alligator lunges at you or hisses/growls at you, you’re still too close.
7. If you have an alligator in a body of water on your property, do not try to relocate or move the alligator. In most cases, alligators will eventually move along on their own after a period of days or weeks. Remember that interfering with an alligator is illegal–even if it is on your own property. If you have questions or an aggressive alligator on your hands, it’s best to call in a professional wildlife service.
Alligators are a part of life in South Carolina. In the vast majority of cases, keeping a large and respectful distance from them and allowing them to move along on their way is the best course of action. Following our alligator safety tips will help you keep yourself and others safe from alligators. If you need help with any alligator issue, Pee Dee Wildlife is your top local gator and wildlife control resource.
by: Dennis Matherly