RALEIGH, N.C. (May 15, 2020) — Despite their intimidating appearance, alligators are relatively secretive and shy — traits that can disappear and make them a public safety issue if they are fed by humans frequently.
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission reminds the public that it is illegal to feed, harm, harass or poach an alligator in North Carolina. While they rarely pose a threat to humans, 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.
To avoid negative interactions with alligators, it is best to:
While alligators are typically solitary, spring is an optimal time to see them because mating season is in full swing and alligators are moving more in search of a potential mate. However, seeing an alligator in the wild is no cause for alarm, said Alicia Davis, the Commission’s alligator biologist.
“I always tell people to enjoy the opportunity to see an alligator, but remember to view them from a safe and respectful distance, regardless of their size,” Davis said. “How far away is safe? Picture the length of a full-size school bus and keep a minimum of that distance between you and even the smallest alligators, and double that distance for large alligators.
“For their own safety and out of respect for nature, people should always keep a distance of at least two school bus lengths away from any adult alligator in the wild.”
Alligators are part of the natural fauna in the coastal region of the state and very seldom pose a threat to humans. In instances where an alligator is seen in an unusual place, such as a pond or ditch, it will more than likely move away on its own within a few hours to a couple of weeks.
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.
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. Currently, the call center is closed; however, callers can leave a voice mail message with their name, phone number and county in which they live, and an agency employee will return their call as soon as possible. Alternatively, the Commission’s website has information available on how to “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.
Due to the COVID-19 virus, the sales counter at the Wildlife Commission’s headquarters in Raleigh is closed. We encourage the public to visit our website, www.ncwildlife.org, to purchase fishing, trapping and hunting licenses and to renew a vessel registration. The Commission’s License, Vessel Registration Centers are open from 8:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m., Monday-Friday.
For the most up-to-date information on agency-related closures, cancellations and postponements visit ncwildlife.org/covid19.
Download a high-resolution of the image above. Please credit Jeff Hall/NCWRC