Alligators may be found all across Mississippi. They are most prevalent in the southern two-thirds of the state (south of Hwy 82). While alligators typically avoid humans and human activity, occa- sionally they do cause conflicts with humans. Juvenile alligators often disperse into new territories in the late spring and early summer months. During this dipersal, they occasionally find themselves in unusual locations near human development, such as; farm ponds, road ditches, highways, parking lots, yards, swimming pools, neighborhood water landscape pools, and even buildings. It is illegal and very dangerous for the public to capture and remove or kill an alligator without a special permit from the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks (MDWFP). As human developments (residential and commercial) continue to encroach into more rural areas of the state, increased interaction and conflicts with wildlife are subject to occur.
According to Ricky Flynt, Alligator Program Coordinator, MDWFP Alligator Program, the central Mississippi area receivesbetween 100 to 200 calls a year regarding alligators. Of those, approximately 100 require agency response. MDWFP will typically respond when the alligator is deemed a "nuisance." Of these 100 calls, ones that require immediate attention are those where the alligator is in an out-of-place location, such as a private home, a highway, a parking lot or business and/or considered to be an eminent threat to the public.
Flynt says that the most common situation where alligators and humans come into contact on a more frequent basis are local "high recreation areas" such as the Ross Barnett Reservoir and Pearl River. As a result, the alligators are less spooked by human activity, but will typically continue to avoid contact. Flynt recommends recreation seekers avoid contact with alligators when one is spot- ted in these circumstances. Mississippi residents can only legally seek the indigenous reptiles out when issued a permit from MDWFP during hunting season.
Flynt says that "alligators have a bad wrap, that has been given them by Hollywood, TV shows, cable TV shows." But he wants to reassure SW Rankin residents that ultimately alligators "are generally not dangerous and avoid people in normal circumstances. The problems that do arise between human and reptile exist because someone has fed them and or provided access to a food supply" and Flynt wants to emphasizes that the intentional "feeding alligators is illegal."
For more information about MDWFP Alligator Program, visit www.mdwfp. com/wildlife-hunting/alligator-program/ or call 601.432.2400. To report alligators, or any wildlife, violations, call 1-800-BE SMART(237-6278).