Gators are never welcome in Tuscaloosa (looking at you, Dan Mullen) but alligator sightings in our city seem to have increased exponentially. What's the deal?

Tuscaloosa Police nabbed an eight-foot alligator at Liberty Recycling Plant back in 2017, and in May of this year a 12-footer was found dead on the railroad tracks off 35th Street.

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Remember September 2020? A fisherman's catch turned into a snack for an alligator at Van de Graff Park.

As if that weren't enough: a local resident's car was literally attacked by an alligator during flooding caused by Tropical Storm Claudette back in June.

So what's the deal? Why are there so many alligators in Tuscaloosa?

“The American alligator’s range goes all the way up to North Carolina,” said Dr. Scott Jones, a New College LifeTrack instructor who specializes in herpetology, zoology and conservation biology at the University of Alabama.

"[S]eeing them here isn’t that unusual. In fact, seeing them here is a success story," Jones said.

The American Alligator population suffered from hunting so much so that they were placed on the endangered species list in 1970. Their population has since rebounded and continues to grow--even in Tuscaloosa.

“They’re more active in the summer because it’s breeding season so that’s one of the main reasons someone may spot one,” he said. “In addition, there’s been a lot of major rain events here. Heavy rain and flooding will wash them out of their typical habitats and into areas where they’re swimming on the street like with the sightings on Kauloosa Avenue."

“I can’t say for sure that their population is experiencing a boom in growth here, but I can say that their population here is stable and slowly increasing, and that American alligator population in the South, in general, is growing," Jones said.

Jones said alligators like spending their time in areas that aren't highly populated, and fishermen are more likely to encounter gators early in the morning or late at night.

“They look a good bit like logs,” he said. “If you see a log all-of-a-sudden emerge from the water that might be a good sign that it’s actually an alligator. If you’re out at night and you see a pink eye shine on the water, it’s a good sign that it could be an alligator," Jones said.

What's the best course of action to take if you encounter a gator?

Jones says its best to just leave the gator alone.

“They tend to be shy so just give them space. Obviously, if you’re driving and one is in the way there’s nothing you can do if it crosses your path, but that’s rare. They’re generally content to stay in the water or around the water," Jones said.

(Source: Is the American Alligator Population in Tuscaloosa Increasing? via the University of Alabama)

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