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Be ‘alligator safe’ around the water

on Wednesday, 06 July 2016. Posted in Good life

Nearly any water body in the coastal plain of South Carolina may contain alligators, and the mere presence of alligators in or adjacent to their natural habitat in South Carolina is a normal occurrence and not normally an emergency requiring the animal’s removal, according to biologists with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources.

Furthermore, alligators less than four feet are typically not large enough to be dangerous to people unless handled. Never approach an alligator of any size, keep your distance and leave them alone. Safety tips to keep in mind:

• Never feed alligators. Not only is it illegal in South Carolina to feed alligators, it also teaches them to associate people with food. This can cause alligators to lose their natural fear of humans. In many cases, fed alligators will begin to approach at the sight of people and may become aggressive in seeking a handout. These animals will be euthanized to prevent unwanted alligator interactions. Also, don’t dispose of fish scraps or crab bait in the water at boat ramps, docks, swimming, or camping areas. You can inadvertently be feeding alligators.

• If you see someone feeding alligators, contact the S.C. Department of Natural Resources at 1-800-922-5431.

• Avoid swimming in areas known to harbor large alligators. As the size of an alligator increases, so does the size of prey that it can consume. Don’t swim or play in the water between dusk and dawn in areas with alligators. Alligators normally are more active during the night and can mistake splashing noises for prey. Only swim in areas designated for swimming. Higher levels of human activity found in designated swimming areas typically make alligators keep their distance. Other potential dangers include steep drop offs, stumps, rocks, and other underwater obstructions that you may not be able to see if the location is not a designated swimming area. Also, never swim alone.

• Keep pets out of the water, even in designated swimming areas, if alligators are present. Pets are more susceptible to being attacked as they resemble normal prey items for alligators. Do not swim with your dog as it can attract the attention of alligators.

• Don’t approach an alligator, keep your distance and leave them alone. Alligators can move in quick bursts over short distances but normally do not try to run after people. If an alligator hisses, it’s a warning that you are too close.

• If an alligator is in a place where it cannot reasonably be expected to get back to the water without posing a risk to itself or to others, or is in a location that presents an immediate hazard, such as a road, school, pool, parking lot, etc., contact the DNR at 1-800-922-5431.

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