COLUMBUS, Ga. – For many, summer plans include a trip to the river or the lake. It’s rare, but if someone runs into an alligator, it’s good to know the proper way to handle the situation.
Assistant Director of Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center Jan Kent says plenty of separation is the best bet for staying safe.
“Whether you’re feeding it, or poking a stick at it or trying to catch it, you have a very high risk of getting bitten,” Kent explained. “When you get bitten by an alligator, it’s not necessarily because they want to eat you. It’s because they feel threatened. They have to protect themselves.”
Jeff Carrero works at Whitewater Express. He usually comes down to the Chattahoochee Riverwalk about five times a week. He sees a lot of wildlife, including turtles, catfish and some blue herons. However, he says he’s never seen an alligator.
But video surfacing on Facebook this week of an American alligator swimming in the Chattahoochee has Columbus native Joe Bell intrigued.
“On Facebook, we saw someone caught a 12-foot alligator down here,” Bell said. “So when me and my wife come down here and walk, I’m hoping to see one. I actually don’t know what I’d do if I saw it. I just want to see one because I know it’s interesting.”
Bell says he would never touch an alligator if he encountered one, because they could be quick to strike. Wildlife specialist Jan Kent says rivers and lakes around the Chattahoochee Valley allow gators to do what they do best.
“They like to have an easy food source because their job in nature is to hunt,” Kent said. “That’s what they’re supposed to do: hunt animals because they’re carnivores.”
Kent says gators typically avoid humans because they are afraid. She adds that more harm could come to the reptile rather than humans if it feeds on foreign flesh.
“If you ever feed an alligator, a few things have to happen because they are dangerous,” Kent elaborated. “They have to be removed from that habitat and relocated to a nature center such as Oxbow Meadows or they have to be euthanized.”
Kent mentions that Oxbow Meadows has a weekly informational session and gator feeding every Wednesday at 2 p.m. She calls the American alligator population a success story. Just a short while ago, they were on the verge of extinction. Now, Georgia enacts hunting season during late summer and early fall for gator enthusiasts to have a little fun.