Last month I blogged about my father and I seeing a tagged Alligator at the Savannah NWR. It was the first one tagged alligator either of us had ever seen at the refuge so we were curious about it. I tweeted to the US Fish and Wildlife Southeast Division about the alligator, including a photo, and they they said they would try to find out an answer. Last week, my father made another visit to the refuge and while he was across the river he stopped by the Refuge Visitors Center and asked about it.
While at the Visitor’s Center, he talked to the Project Leader for the refuge. She was already familiar with the question as she had received an email about it (no doubt related to the my query to the Southeastern Region) and filled him in. It turns out that there are two tagged Alligators at the refuge, one male and one female. The one we saw is apparently the male. Both were tagged because they were nuisance Alligators, having become accustomed to to being fed by refuge visitors. This put visitors at risk and put the the Alligators at risk of being destroyed if not for an idea a South Carolina trapper (sorry, I don’t know which one) has been trying out. This trapper’s theory with nuisance Alligators is that if you can trap them, handle them, and tag them it may discourage them from further human contact. If you visit the Refuge regularly, you’ve probably noticed that there was almost always an alligator resting in a “notch” of one of the canals by the roadway about half-way along the diversion canal on the left hand side. I believe that the Alligators frequenting that spot are the ones that were tagged.
This is what they’ve tried with the two Alligators at the Refuge. The tagged female hasn’t been sighted since she was tagged, presumably she learned her lesson. The male Alligator has been seen right back up near the roadway so apparently he hasn’t learned his. As I understand it, the plan is to try tagging the male Alligator again to see if more contact might change his behavior. If the second tag doesn’t curb the behavior, he’ll have to be destroyed.
That would be a shame because it will have been stupid behavior by visitors that has caused it. There are signs all along the Refuge drive that tell you not to feed the Alligators but there are always those that don’t pay attention or don’t care and see it as a way to get closer to or see more Alligators. First of all, it’s just plain unsafe. Second, the Alligators become accustomed to being fed and begin to expect it, turning them into nuisance Alligators. These are unsafe for the public and if their behavior can’t be changed, they have to be killed to keep the visitors (who’ve caused the behavior to start off with!) safe. So please don’t feed the Alligators when you visit the Refuge. If you see someone feeding them, get a license plate number from the vehicle and call Refuge Law Enforcement to turn them in at 843-784-2468 or 912-210-3976.