Wildlife officers urge caution if you spot a gator - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Wildlife officers urge caution if you spot a gator

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MEMPHIS, TN -

By Anna Marie Hartman - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - That knock on your door could be an alligator.

Gators are beginning to show up in strange places around Shelby County.  One recently tried to get into a garage in Raleigh, while another set its sights on an eagle rescue in Northaven.

Attacks are rare, but according to Steve Reichling at the Memphis Zoo, out in the wild the gator is a deadly man eater.

"There are people that have been attacked by alligators and killed by alligators," he said. "It's extremely rare."

Duane Stokes was at work when a neighbor called with terrifying news - an alligator was in his back yard.

"I got scared," he said. "To be honest with you, I was afraid."

Stokes rushed home to find a three foot long gator in his Raleigh driveway.

"It was banging at the garage like it was trying to get in," he said.

Wildlife officers saved the day, and documented one of a number of alligator sightings in the suburbs of West Tennessee.

"In the past 10 years we've probably had a couple of dozen calls to come out and try to remove an alligator," said Andy Tweed, a Tennessee Wildlife Officer.

According to Tweed, alligators live among us.  Tweed, along with Ray McMillen, recently took Action News 5 gator hunting down a dusty road in the heart of Shelby Forest.  There, they spotted an American Alligator.  The species, which has the strongest bite of any living animal, has slowly been working its way up the Mississippi River corridor since the late 1990's. 

On occasion, American Alligators venture into populated areas. Usually, they are searching for food, but during extremely dry weather, they are attracted to swimming pools.

So what should you do if you spot a gator?

"If the alligator is too big and they're not able to do anything with it, they can give us a call," Tweed said. "But the biggest thing is just leave it along."

If wildlife officers are called to capture a gator, they will simply release it back into the wild. In Tennessee, it is illegal to hunt alligators, or own one as a pet.

Gator hunting is legal under strict guidelines in Mississippi and Arkansas.

WEB LINKS:
For information on alligator hunting in Mississippi, click here:
http://home.mdwfp.com/wildlife/species/alligator/default.aspx

For information on alligator hunting in Arkansas, click here:
http://www.agfc.com/hunting/Pages/HuntingRegulations.aspx

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