Published 12:05 am Saturday, June 21, 2014

If warnings from police in River Falls earlier this month for people to not trespass on the private property known as “the falls” wasn’t deterrent enough for some, recent sightings of a large alligator in the area just may be.

River Falls Chief of Police Greg Jackson said there have been at least three sightings of a “rather large” alligator in the area around the property in the last week, beginning when the reptile was first spotted Tuesday.

As of Friday, Jackson said there had been no reports of any injuries to either people or the animal, but is urging locals to steer clear of the area.

Mark Bailey, a biologist with Conservation Southeast, agreed with Jackson that avoiding the animal is the best solution. Gator

“Give them their space,” Bailey said. “If this alligator is truly wild and hasn’t gotten fed by people, or associated people with food through that, it shouldn’t be a problem.”

Bailey said signs found in most places heavily populated by alligators urging locals not to feed the reptiles have very good reasons behind them.

“That’s the worse thing you can do,” Bailey said. “An alligator that gets fed loses its fear of people, and that’s when accidents can happen.”

Bailey said, assuming the alligator spotted in River Falls hasn’t had regular contact with people, chances are the animal won’t be in any way aggressive.

“Almost every alligator I’ve encountered will immediately leave if someone walks up on it,” he said. “Now, if it appears to be following people, that’s a totally different story. Authorities need to be notified.”

Bailey said, while alligator sightings aren’t as common in Covington County as they are in other parts of the state – or in Florida – attacks are still possible.

“I think it was back in the 1980s that a person was bitten at the national forest and lost an arm,” he said. “And people are going to remember a thing like that and think about it when they see one.”

But Bailey reiterated that alligators are not typically aggressive, also cautioning anyone that may come across the animal that killing a gator out of season carries consequences.

“Gators are protected in the off season,” he said. “Even if it’s on your property; it doesn’t matter where it is.”

So, whether you are a property owner in River Falls, or simply a passer by, and you come across the animal, what can you do?

“If I saw an alligator on my property – and I love alligators – I might occasionally just throw a rock at it,” he said. “Just something to keep it away.”