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Recently, our CLS residents have noticed an increase in alligator sightings at Jarboe Bayou, Clear Lake Road bridge and surrounding areas. It is important to be aware and know what to do if you and your family come into close contact with an alligator. Please take a look at these FAQs that the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department put together for us.
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. Additionally, 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. 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).
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 following information should help you determine if the observed alligator may pose a threat to you or your property.
If the alligator is not approaching people or otherwise posing an obvious threat, wait a few days if possible - even up to a week - before contacting TPWD. In spring and summer, alligators are moving to breed and find new habitat. Most of the alligators moving around are smaller ones that have been pushed out of their normal habitat by larger alligators. Usually, these smaller alligators will move further on in a week or two.
If you hear an alligator hiss, it's a warning that you are too close. Alligators have a natural fear of humans, and usually begin a quick retreat when approached by people. If you have a close encounter with an alligator a few yards away, back away slowly. It is extremely rare for wild alligators to chase people, but they can run up to 35 miles per hour for short distances on land. Never make the mistake of thinking that an alligator is slow and lethargic. Alligators are extremely quick and agile and will defend themselves when cornered. A female protecting her nest might charge a person who gets close to the nest, but she would quickly return to the nest after the intruder left.
It is not uncommon for alligators to bask along the banks of a pond or stream for extended periods of time. These alligators are usually warming their bodies; they are not actively hunting. Often times a basking alligator may be seen with its mouth open; this is a way to cool its body temperature down, since alligators do not pant or sweat. An approaching human should cause these alligators to retreat into the water. However, an alligator may be considered a nuisance if it leaves the banks of the water body to spend time near homes, livestock pens, or other structures.
If you walk near the water and an alligator comes straight toward you, especially if it comes out of the water, it is definitely a nuisance alligator that needs to be reported to TPWD. In many cases, these are alligators that have been fed by people or have been allowed to get human food. If you see a nuisance alligator, consider why it is there. Did someone clean fish and throw the heads into a pond or river? If so, they created a potential alligator problem and could be breaking state regulations. Since October 1, 2003, it has been a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500 for anyone caught feeding an alligator.
If you see an alligator while walking a pet make sure that your pet is on a leash and under your control. Your pet will naturally be curious, and the alligator may see an easy food source. Alligators have a keen sense of smell. In areas near alligator sightings it is wise to keep pets inside a fenced area or in the house for a few days, during which the alligator will often move on.
DO NOT attempt to move it! Notify local authorities so the alligator can be handled safely.
For additional details about alligators, please contact the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department law enforcement communications center at (512) 389-4848 or visit their website https://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/wild/species/alligator/index.phtml