RALEIGH, N.C. — If you see an alligator in the wild, look but don’t feed — and don’t touch, harass or poach the animal either. The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission reminds the public that alligators can become a nuisance when people either intentionally or unintentionally feed them, which causes them to associate humans with an easy meal.
To keep from unintentionally attracting alligators, people should not feed other animals—including ducks, geese, fish or turtles—in waters where alligators live. Also, anglers should always take their fish scraps with them or dispose of them in a trash receptacle rather than throwing them in the water.
“While they may look intimidating, alligators are naturally secretive and shy around humans. By following a few simple safety tips, the public can help keep them that way and prevent conflicts between their pets and wild alligators,” said Alicia Davis, the Commission’s alligator biologist. “Keep pets on a leash whenever you are near water where alligators have been seen, and don’t allow them to swim, drink or exercise in or near those waters.”
Other tips people can follow to avoid negative interactions with alligators are:
Watch young children closely and never leave them unattended near any body of water.
Be especially cautious in and around waters where alligators have been seen between dusk and dawn — times when alligators are most active.
Never approach an alligator — no matter what its size.
Davis also reminds people not to be alarmed when they see an alligator but do keep a safe distance away of at least 50 feet, or one school bus-length.
“When you see an alligator, the best thing you can do is to leave it alone and allow it to leave on its own,” Davis said. “Alligators are part of the natural fauna in the coastal region of the state and very seldom pose a threat to humans.”
On rare occasions an alligator can cause a situation that does require immediate action, such as when it becomes trapped in a swimming pool or wanders into a public road and refuses to move. In those cases, only an authorized Commission employee or licensed agent can remove it legally.
See an Alligator? Let Us Know through N.C. Alligators iNaturalist Project
If you do see an alligator in North Carolina (natural distribution map) and can snap a photo from a safe distance, you can help biologists by sharing your sighting. The Commission developed a citizen science project last year to help the agency learn more about where people see alligators in North Carolina.
Anyone, whether a resident or visitor, who spots an alligator in North Carolina is asked to upload and share their photos on the project titled “N.C. Alligators,” which can be found on the free online platform iNaturalist. People can upload their photos via a computer at iNaturalist.org or they can download the free iNaturalist app, which is available for iPhone and Android.
Observations added to the N.C. Alligators project will help Commission educators target communities for proactive outreach programs about alligators. Alligator sightings reported in rural areas help to identify potential areas for alligator habitat conservation or watchable wildlife location designation.
iNaturalist users can view other alligator observations that have been uploaded to the project and the map generated by program participants. People who want to report observations but do not want to use iNaturalist can send their alligator observations directly to Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org. The email should include:
A photo of the alligator
When it was observed (date and time)
The location where it was found (GPS coordinates are best, but a detailed location description is acceptable)
Estimation of size class
More than 9 feet
Anyone who has questions regarding alligators or other questions about human-wildlife interactions can call the Commission’s N.C. Wildlife Helpline toll-free at 866-318-2401. The call center is open Monday through Friday (excluding holidays) from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Commission also has available “Coexisting with Alligators” and American Alligator wildlife profile.
To report instances of poaching, harming, harassing or intentionally feeding alligators, call the Wildlife Commission’s Enforcement hotline, 1-800-662-7137. Instances of poaching also can be reported through the agency’s Turn-in Poachers program.