North Alabama is known for a bevy of things: great music, cool winters and warm summers, great outdoor recreation opportunities and diverse wildlife. But just how diverse is it?
A recent sighting and capture of an adult alligator was reported just a few weeks ago in Huntsville. And police say this is not the first time, and likely won’t be the last.
Gator in the Rocket City
The latest report of an alligatir in Huntsville came just a couple of weeks ago off Haysland Road, according to WHNT. Of course, this happened just days after Huntsville was named the country’s best place to live by U.S. News & World Report, so the Huntsville Police Department had fun with the gator capture by posting a photo of the creature and saying, “‘Florida Man’ seen entering into Huntsville, heard it was the best place to live in the country!”
The City of Huntsville said lately, there’s been an uptick in alligator sightings in the southern and western portions of the city. In addition to the Haysland Road sightings, they’ve been spotted off Zierdt Road and in Morgan and Lauderdale counties.
Alligators in North Alabama are not a new phenomena
An Associated Press report from 2019 said alligator reports in the Tennessee River date back to 1894. The North Alabama alligator population received a boost in the 1970s when about 50 alligators were released into the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, which spans 35,000 acres between Huntsville and Decatur.
Huntsville Animal Services Director Dr. Karen Sheppard said she’s seen a few recent social media posts about citizen-alligator encounters, including a group of youngsters on a pool float attempting to get a closer look, which is not recomended.
“One individual made a really good point that people move to Huntsville from all over the U.S. and wouldn’t have any idea we have alligators…Just leave them alone. We should respect them from a distance.”Dr. Karen Sheppard, Huntsville Animal Services
Sheppard said alligators do not like humans, and will move to another area if humans become a common sight.
Some other alligator facts
The alligators found in North Alabama do not grow as large as some found in South Alabama or Florida. But that does not mean they are safe to approach (although there has been no documented instance of a human being attacked by an alligator in Alabama).
Here are some quick gator facts:
- They tend to feed on small mammals as well as birds, ducks, turtles, fish and snakes.
- They breed in April and May; females can lay between 30-70 eggs, which hatch after nine weeks.
- They are often more visible after large amounts of rain.
- Alligators are a federally protected species, and it is illegal to indiscriminately kill one in Alabama.
- If an alligator poses a threat, residents should call Huntsville Police, which will coordinate removal with state wildlife officials.