Wildlife experts say alligator sightings will increase as they prepare for mating season

Published: Mar. 16, 2023 at 5:58 PM EDT
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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - With the mating season for alligators just around the corner, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources is reminding people to be mindful of alligators that may be seen soaking up the sun.

“The Snake Chaser” Russell Cavender, a Nuisance Wildlife Control Specialist, said he’s gearing up for a steep increase in calls for alligator sightings.

“Once we get into next month, it’s like a bomb goes off,” said Cavender.

He said sightings ramp up in April and May, with mating season around late May to early June, but according to SCDNR alligator project manager Morgan Hart, just because you don’t see them doesn’t mean they’re not there.

“People who haven’t seen alligators all winter suddenly see a lot of alligators and think that the alligators have, you know, multiplied or appeared out of nowhere,” said Hart. “But, you know, the alligators were always there, we just weren’t seeing them.”

Hart said alligators are common in any freshwater below the fall line, which runs parallel to the coast and is where rivers are no longer navigable from the Lowcountry. She added that while some people don’t want alligators in their space, they are necessary for the environment.

“If we removed all the alligators from anywhere in the state, the ecosystems there would collapse and you’d lose some of your other beneficial animals that people love to see all the time,” said Hart.

And, even in an area with lots of development, like Myrtle Beach, alligators will not go away.

“We’re making bodies of water, retention ponds, and these retention ponds are homes for alligators, so the ducks and the fish that are in these ponds are a food source for them,” said Cavender.

Cavender added that many people often wonder how alligators get into bodies of water on their property, but he says they can travel through pipes to different freshwater sources.

Cavender and Hart emphasized feeding alligators usually gets people into trouble.

“A fed alligator learns to approach people for food, which can certainly make, you know, for a dangerous animal,” said Hart.

But, even then, incidents involving alligators and humans are still extremely rare.

“You have a better chance of being killed by bees, snakes, hogs, cows, cars, people by far more so than you do an alligator,” said Cavender.

SCDNR said as alligators begin to warm up, if you see a basking alligator, keep your distance and allow them to enjoy the sunshine.

For more information, you can visit the SCDNR website.