HOUSTON (KHOU) — Recent rains and flooding have alligators moving into areas they usually avoid.
On Sunday afternoon, family members on a fishing outing survived a frightening ordeal when an alligatorattacked a father and son in Lake Charlotte near Wallisville.
In this case, authorities said a 13-year-old boy was cooling off in waist deep water when the gator, described as six to eight feet in length, grabbed his arm and pulled him under.
The teen’s father and grandfather jumped in to rescue to the child, but before they could make it out of the water, the gator bit down on the leg of father. All of them made it to the shoreline.
Authorities described the attack as unprovoked. Locals said they had never heard of anything like this happening before.
However, while people can live in close proximity to the reptiles without ever having an incident, this recent attack along various recent encounters in different areas in Southeast Texas are reminders that alligators should be approached carefully.
The suburban growth sometimes complicates matters further as neighborhoods continue to encroach upon the alligator’s domain.
According to Texas Park and Wildlife, 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).
According to Texas Parks and Wildlife, if you see an alligator:
- If the alligator is not approaching people or otherwise posing an obvious threat, wait a few days if possible 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. (In some cases, the alligator may be protecting a nest – see below.) 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 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.
- If you see an alligator in the roadway, DO NOT attempt to move it! Notify local authorities so the alligator can be handled safely.
- If you see a large alligator in your favorite swimming hole or pond, do not swim with it. Although alligator attacks in Texas are rare, it can happen. The “attack” reports in Texas are usually more accurately described as “encounters.” As with all outdoor activities, realize that wildlife encounters are a possibility.
- It is not uncommon for alligators to pursue top-water fishing lures, and this activity does not constitute a threat to humans. As with fish, alligators are attracted to these lures because they mimic natural food. Most alligators can be easily scared away from boats or fishing lures. However, alligators that repeatedly follow boats, canoes, or other watercraft, and/or maintain a close distance without submersing may be considered nuisance alligators.
- 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.
State officials say that should you determine that an alligator may pose a threat to you or your property, please contact the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department law enforcement communications center in La Porte at (281) 842-8100 or in Austin at (512) 389-4848.
For more from TPWD, visit their website at www.tpwd.texas.gov.