GATOR WEEK: When gators lose their fear of humans


Florida is not the only state to have alligator encounters.

Michael "Big Mike" Ventimiglia found that out just a couple weeks ago when a gator showed up in the parking lot of the bar he owns. He couldn't believe it when some of his patrons told him what they saw.

"Cuz he was in the parking lot when the girls rode up on their motorcycles, and they were like 'there's an alligator in the parking lot!' And we were all going 'ah you're out of your mind what are y'all drinking bring me one of those whatever you're having,' and sure enough there he was!" Ventimiglia said.

Georgia Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Biologist Bobby Bond said the middle of Georgia is right on the boundary of 'Alligator Country.'

"Right along the fall line which goes from Columbus to Macon to Augusta, they can be North of that sometimes but not too much farther North than that," Bond said.

He said you can find the American Alligator, the same species prevalent throughout the Southeast, in most of Middle Georgia's bodies of water.

"The Ocmulgee River, that's their natural residence, the Oconee River, the Altamaha River which is just south of us, Lake Blackshear, even Southern Lake Sinclair, is right on the transition zone and we've been getting calls there for years now," Bond said.

Alligators are cold blooded, which means when the temperatures dip down they're looking for a heat source.

Bond said sometimes that means they'll park right on asphalt.

"Because you know a paved road it has a heat source, it being a cold-blooded animal it tries to come to a heat source to stay warm," Bond said.

Which is exactly what happened when a good-sized gator decided to block a highway in Warner Robins, Georgia in May.

"So, the easiest thing to do is for the local fire department to come in with a fire truck and a fire hose and it'll move it right off the road," Bond said to do in those situations.

But there's one thing Bond says you should never do if you come into contact with the American Alligator.

"The worst possible thing that could ever happen and it does happen some, is for people to feed an alligator," Bond said.

He went on to say when you feed an alligator it loses its natural fear of humans, making them more of a danger to you.

"Because there's no way of rehabbing that alligator, it's over once that alligator loses its fear, becomes habituated to humans the gator must be removed permanently and can't be relocated anywhere," meaning wildlife specialists will have to euthanize the gator he said.

So just try to enjoy them from a distance like 'Big Mike' did.

"Because you don't see an alligator every day in your parking lot!" Ventimiglia said.

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