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State: Gators to stay put
Even at a distance, alligators make Rachel McDade nervous.

McDade has been startled several times in recent weeks by alligators sun bathing along the banks of a lake behind her grandmother's house in the Island Club on St. Simons Island.

McDade, her father and other family members regularly visit her grandmother, Margaret Jung, whose back yard overlooks a serene lake in the upscale neighborhood. The visits often include children playing just a few feet from where she has seen the reptiles soaking up the sun.

"We are always worried about the children going down by the water," McDade said.

After a recent call to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, McDade was surprised to learn immediate action to remove the predators would not be taken.

"They said until the gators become a threat, they can't do anything," she said.

She was told the department would only remove the alligators if the subdivision's home owner's association made the call.

McDade said she would like to see the state do more.

But until the homeowner's association, the entity managing the lake, asks for the animals to be removed, rangers cannot do anything about it, according to David Mixon, regional manager of DNR's game management division.

"Individual land owners don't have authority over a lake in a subdivision," Mixon said. "Plus, an alligator sun bathing on the bank of a pond does not necessarily present an immediate danger."

If the alligator wanders onto Jung's porch or the driveway, rangers would have the animal removed, Mixon said.

The story might also be different if Jung owned the lake. Mixon said game management contacts specially certified wildlife removal specialists to take care of alligators in privately owned, man-made lakes when complaints are made.

Mixon said his office gets at least a call a day about alligators. Most do not pose an immediate threat to humans or pets -- especially along rivers, Mixon said.

"We are not going to come pull a gator out of a river just because someone saw it," he said. "Rivers are their natural habitat. That is where they live."

To keep alligators from getting too close, Mixon suggests leaving them alone, not feeding them and giving them space. Feeding them will remove the animals' fear of humans and make it more likely that they will become a threat.

It may seem odd to see an alligator in a man-made pond not connected to any water source, but alligators are crafty beasts, Mixon said. They will travel long distances over land, through drainage pipes and even through salt water.

"They will even come out in the surf and find their way to the beach sometimes," Mixon said.



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