RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — You may be surprised to learn some bodies of water here in North Carolina are host to alligators, although biologists say they are a bit of a novelty in some areas.
Generally, they are found in the waters along North Carolina’s coast—as an Apex man discovered during a recent fishing excursion down east.
Craig Petronella was fishing in a Pamlico County Lake when he pulled up something he didn’t want for dinner—an alligator.
The whole thing was captured on video by a friend, Aaron Snead.
“My initial reaction was ‘oh my gosh’ I just swam in that lake doing a zip line with my son just moments ago, now there’s a gator in there and I don’t want any part of it,” Petronella said.
Consumer Investigator Steve Sbraccia asked a state alligator biologist If there are alligators in a pond, should people worry about the gator going after them.
“No,” said Alicia Davis of N.C. Wildlife.
“Alligators know the difference between people and things they do not naturally eat. They have a natural fear of people.”
As it turns out, bodies of water in North Carolina’s coastal areas are part of the American alligator’s natural range.
The state has a project which tracks alligators using reports of alligator sightings from the public to provide insight on where alligators are in North Carolina.
“They do live in Pamlico County,” said Davis.
Last week, a CBS 17 viewer provided us with a video of an alligator in the surf at a North Carolina beach.
“He was probably following the food source out there,” said Davis. “They don’t have salt secreting glands like crocodiles do, so they have to go back to freshwater to drink.”
North Carolina’s alligators grow slower and not as large as their cousins living further south, like in Florida, because our weather is cooler, and the feeding season is shorter. Also snow and ice won’t kill them.
“Once the temperature drops below 60, they can’t metabolize food, so they don’t eat through the whole winter time,” said Davis.
She said gators hunker down in a den somewhere during the cold months in a sort of sleep called brumation and wait for warmer weather to return.
Meanwhile, Petronella says his springtime gator encounter was one to remember.
“It certainly scared everyone around us,” he said.
That would also apply to gators.
“They tend to be very shy around people,” said Davis.
Although gators naturally fear humans, they lose that fear if you feed them so let them find their own food.
If you don’t teach them that humans are a food source, gators can peacefully co-exist with us.
Even so, Davis says give them plenty of space as well as the respect they deserve.
“I tell people, keep a safe distance away–at least one school bus length away from the alligator,” she said.