Whenever you are living near alligators, you need to make some reasonable accommodations for them. For example, when you approach an idyllic lake and cypress tree like the one shown below in North Carolina. You might want to watch your step and approach the banks with caution.
Here are a couple of friendly alligators that lurk near the banks. You can't assume that they will fear and respect you. Sometimes alligators get fed by people on a regular basis. When that happens, they lose their fear of humans and may come to meet you. If you are sick, old, infirm, a toddler, or walking a dog, the alligators may even come up to eat you.
When we used to visit these alligators, our rule was that the dogs would stay in the car with someone and the air conditioner running. We always approached the bank with a maximum of alertness and a readiness to run. Fortunately, there was also a few feet of vertical man-made retaining wall at this lake so the alligators could easily leave their habitat to join ours. Alligators can run at up to 20 miles per hour in a short burst and they can break a leg with the slap of a tail.
Unfortunately, in this location, locals often fed the alligators and they were in the habit of looking for handouts. More than one alligator has been removed from this location over the years. You couldn't pay me to kayak, swim, or wade in the location.
Remember a few common sense rules about alligators -
1. Don't feed alligators.
2. Don't swim with alligators.
3. Don't assume that alligators aren't fed by people.
4. When it comes to boats and alligators, free board is your friend.
5. Don't walk dogs near ponds or lakes that may have alligators.
6. Don't dangle feet into the waters of an alligator habitat.
7. Don't sunbathe near alligator habitat--stay alert!
8. Don't let small children or elderly people walk near alligator habitat.
9. Approach alligator habitats with caution.
10. Don't stand near a "sleeping" alligator.
|Alligator at St. Marks NWR in Florida taken through telephoto lens|
Many people say that you should respect the alligator. For me, that respect starts by keeping a safe distance away from an alligator. To me, that means 25 feet at a minimum. If an alligator is big, I'd even recommend doubling that distance to 50 feet or more. If an alligator swims towards you, you should stand back even further and get ready to go. An alligator that approaches you has either been fed by people or could think that something about you or your group might be tasty.