The American alligator is the only large predator remaining in South Carolina, yet many visitors and residents remain unaware of how to avoid potential conflicts with it. Good judgment and the ability to understand the animals’ behavior are important for avoiding problems. Because alligators are regularly observed lazily basking along water bodies, many people mistakenly assume that they are docile and harmless. Normally, alligators will stay away from humans and pose little threat to them. However, alligators should never be approached and should never be fed — it’s dangerous and illegal. An alligators’ predatory nature and potentially large size demands respect. Here are a few facts and myths about these Lowcountry critters and how you can avoid a dangerous encounter from the South Carolina Parks.
▪ Most alligator problems occur between early March and July, which is the breeding season.
▪ Alligators should retreat into the water at the approach of humans. If the alligator lets you get close without showing defensive action, it is demonstrating problem behavior.
▪ Never feed or entice alligators — it’s dangerous and illegal. When fed, alligators begin to associate people with food.
▪ Alligators are most active between dusk and dawn.
▪ Don’t let pets swim, drink from or run along the shore of water that might contain alligators.
▪ Observe and photograph the animals from a distance.
Gator 101: Myths vs. fact
Alligators will chase people.
Fact: Bigger gators shy more readily. That’s how they live to be so big. Most alligators will retreat at the approach of humans.
You should run zigzag if you come across an alligator.
Fact: This is a common misconception. It is rare for an alligator to pursue a human. However, if an alligator does make an aggressive charge, run fast and away from the alligator. They usually do not run very far.
Alligators have poor eyesight.
Fact: Alligators have very good eyesight, which is an important adaptation for hunting. The position of their eyes gives them a wide sight range. The only place they cannot see is behind them.
Alligators aren’t good climbers.
Fact: Alligators have sharp claws and powerful tails to help them push their bodies up. Young alligators are agile climbers and adults have been known to climb fences to get to water or escape captivity.