If You See An Alligator

ABOUT ALLIGATORS...

Swimming Alligator

© TPWD 2003/Photo by Earl Nottingham

The American alligator was once very common in rivers, creeks, and backwater sloughs of East and South Texas. Unregulated market hunting and habitat alteration resulted in near extirpation of the species in Texas by the 1950's. Legal protection, enhanced habitat conditions, and new water impoundment projects have resulted in a rapid repopulation of Texas by alligators during the past 20 years. To complicate matters, an ever-expanding human population continues to encroach upon the alligator's domain. These factors contribute to increased encounters between alligators and people.

Most Texans in "gator country" will live in close proximity to these native reptiles with no confrontations. However, there are occasions when certain alligators become "a nuisance" and must be handled by the proper authorities. TPWD received more than 400 nuisance alligator calls in Southeast Texas during 2003. (A substantial number of these were not true problem gators, and the sheer volume of these reports is taxing available manpower and resources needed to handle the real problems.) More than 100 alligators were relocated, mostly from subdivisions adjacent to natural habitat. A similar number had to be killed in similar situations. In these incidents alligators had lost their fear of humans and exhibited aggressive behavior. Relocation is not always a viable option, as by nature these animals are territorial. Relocating problem animals to other areas often creates greater problems. What is needed is a better-educated populace more able to recognize the few nuisance alligators and to coexist safely with the majority of alligators that are not nuisances.

The current legal definition of a nuisance gator is "an alligator that is depredating [killing livestock or pets] or a threat to human health or safety" under definitions laid out in the Texas Administrative Code (Title 31, Part 2, Chapter 65, Section 65.352). The following information should help you determine if the observed alligator may pose a threat to you or your property. If, after reading the following, you determine that an alligator is a "nuisance," please contact the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department law enforcement communications center in La Porte at (281) 842-8100 or in Austin at (512) 389-4848.

IF YOU SEE AN ALLIGATOR...

DOs AND DON'Ts FOR LIVING WITH ALLIGATORS

Adapted from "Living with Alligators," Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission )

Don’t - kill, harass, molest or attempt to move alligators. State law prohibits such actions, and the potential for being bitten or injured by a provoked alligator is high.
Do - call your TPWD regional office if you encounter a nuisance gator that has lost its fear of people.
Don’t - allow small children to play by themselves in or around water.
Do - closely supervise children when playing in or around water.
Don’t - swim at night or during dusk or dawn when alligators most actively feed.
Do - use ordinary common care. Swim only during daylight hours.
Don’t - feed or entice alligators. Alligators overcome their natural shyness and become accustomed or attracted to humans when fed. It is now a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $500, to intentionally feed an alligator.
Do - inform others that feeding alligators creates problems for others who want to use the water for recreational purposes.
Don’t - throw fish scraps into the water or leave them on shore. Although you are not intentionally feeding alligators, the end result can be the same.
Do - dispose of fish scraps in garbage cans at most boat ramps or fish camps.
Don’t - remove any alligators from their natural habitat or accept one as a pet. It is a violation of state law to do so. Alligators do not become tame in captivity and handling even small ones may result in bites. In particular, never go near baby alligators or pick them up. They may seem cute and harmless, but mama alligator will be nearby, and will protect her clutch for at least two years.
Do - enjoy viewing and photographing wild alligators from a safe distance of at least 30 feet or more. Remember that they're an important part of Texas's natural history, as well as an integral component of many wetland ecosystems.


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