Wiregrass Alligator Worries

By: Deborah Tuff
By: Deborah Tuff

People living near the water in Florida are on edge after three women died in gator attacks in the past week.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Officials say they have captured the animal that might be responsible for killing one of the women. It was trapped about 200 yards from where her body was found.

Before the most recent series of alligator attacks, there were a total of 17 deaths from gators in the state in the past 58 years.

But now, the growing gator population is prompting state officials to extend hunting season for the reptiles. It's estimated there are about one and a half million alligators in Florida.

Florida's not the only state with a growing gator population.

Fishermen and boaters who frequent two Wiregrass lakes, Lake Seminole and Lake Eufaula, say gators can be a problem there, too.

State wildlife officials say the biggest threat comes when people don't use common sense.

Last year, there were about 100 reported complaints of alligator's in residential and some commercial areas around the Wiregrass, this year so far 24.

Aside from lakes and ponds, most of the gators can be found in areas that were once swamp land.

“Somewhere where's their habitat's been destroyed is where they usually are, you take away their place to live a put them in smaller areas,” said Mickey Gillis.

But wildlife officials say; it’s not usually the alligator that's the threat in such situations.

Usually the reptiles become aggressive after humans feed them.

Officer Larry Doster, AL Game and Freshwater Fish, said “It's against the law to feed an alligator in the state of Alabama and when people start feeding alligators, the alligator associates people and food, and that's where the problem begins.”

On Lake Eufaula, there are about 5,000 alligators that nestle dockside and in the grass. State conservation officials say this hasn't been a problem yet.

“We're trying to keep it from being too dangerous where the public can't enjoy the lake,” said Sgt. Aurora Thomas, AL Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources.

This is exactly what they want you to do in the upcoming Memorial Holiday. If you're going to go swimming where a high alligator population is, swim in groups and make a lot of noise because if there's an alligator around more than likely he'll leave because their afraid of humans,” said Tony Hancock, US Army of Corps Engineers.

So the bottom line is take precautions and use common sense. If you happen to spot an alligator and feel threatened, call your local law enforcement immediately.

There's a game watch number you can call Alabama Game watch number 1-800-272-4263, in case you feel an alligator is a nuisance.

The largest alligator found in the Wiregrass was last year. Officials say it was 13.6 ft. long.


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