On a website recently, a prospective tourist to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina asked if it was safe to visit because of the alligators. The person who answered did so with a pretty honest and forthright answer. “Come on down. The alligators are not crawling all over the place looking to make a meal out of the next unsuspecting tourist.”
Both visitors and residents of South Carolina should always keep in mind that they sometimes do share the ponds, lagoons, retention ponds, and occasional golf courses with gators. But that’s also true of snakes like copper heads, cottonmouths, and rattlesnakes. They were here first, and aren’t going anywhere soon.
You probably won’t find one strolling into a Denny’s restaurant on Highway 17 ordering a late-night snack any time soon. You’re not likely to find one stalking you as you try to sink a putt on your favorite golf course, but these creatures are around and require vigilance, awareness, and common sense.
I wrote a blog Summer Warning: Alligators a while back. In it I covered the potential hazards of encountering alligators mostly in Florida and even in the Caribbean while on vacation. But a disturbing incident this past week has led me to revisit the subject because alligators, though a low threat, are a reality not only along the Grand Strand of South Carolina but throughout the Lowcountry here.
Consider this. One evening on August 5, 2016, two women were astounded when they saw an alligator emerging from the surf in Myrtle Beach around 43rd Ave. The dogs they were walking were, no doubt, equally surprised.
At four feet long, the alligator was large enough to do serious harm to humans and pets, but after basking in the sand, the gator decided to go back for another dip. She then disappeared.
Just this past August 8, at Barefoot Landing in North Myrtle Beach, an alligator literally snapped as onlookers fled in terror. In effect, a bridge connecting the two sides of Barefoot Landing was being held hostage by the alligator. A dog who encountered the gator could not be found for comment. Evidently the gator lost interest in both the bridge and the paparazzi who swarmed around for a selfie.
Last June 8, 2017, Mandy Johnson-Plucinski’s dog alerted her of a guest on her front porch. When she turned on her front porch light, a seven-foot alligator was grinning back at her. With no intention of going anywhere, the gator settled down to enjoy the warm summer evening as dusk turned into dark.
Russell Cavender, the Snake Chaser, arrived on the scene a little later, and a few hours later Mandy’s house was finally liberated. Authorities would not confirm if the gator was booked for trespassing, and once again, the dog could not be reached for comment.
Unfortunately, the next story does not have a happy ending and is a good reason for anyone wishing to protect themselves from alligator attacks, provoked or unprovoked, to read my blog Summer Warning: Alligators at https://billhegerichsr.wordpress.com/2016/06/18/summer-warning-alligators/.
On August 20, 2018, a 45-year-old woman was attacked by an alligator while walking her dog on Hilton Head Island, just south of Beaufort, South Carolina. The eight-foot alligator dragged the woman into a nearby lagoon where she died. The alligator more than likely was attracted to the dog, but something went terribly wrong during the attack.
There is no way to put a positive spin on this tragic event. Gators are common enough in South Carolina, and anyone active outdoors should understand that. While it’s not likely you’ll meet one, you should be aware of their possible presence and what to do if you encounter one.
Gators may seem exotic, and while it may be exciting to tell your friends at the bar how you met one and fed him your leftover Whopper, you’re only part of the problem. Gators are wild animals, and like bears, when exposed to humans, may attack, And if you’re not the victim when feeding one, you’re only making it that much more likely that the next person who meets it will be.
If you meet a gator, back away. Don’t feed it. Don’t even try to get close to it for a selfie. There’s a whole list of do’s and don’ts at https://billhegerichsr.wordpress.com/2016/06/18/summer-warning-alligators/. Ignore them at your own risk.
And let’s say a little prayer for the woman on Hilton Head Island who died so tragically just last week.
Stay safe out there.
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Two-year-old Lane Graves died on June 14 at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa after being attacked by an alligator. When the gator lunged for him just after dark at the Seven Seas Lagoon section of the resort, his mother and father immediately jumped into the water to rescue him but were unable to free him from the alligator’s jaws. His body was recovered the next afternoon fully intact.
Like the ten plus toddlers who have died because they were left in cars since the start of the summer season, Lane’s death is a horrific tragedy. Nothing will fill the void that the parents of these children are experiencing. The most we can do is learn from their deaths.
It may surprise you that alligator deaths are somewhat rare. Since records have been kept in 1947, there have been only 24 deaths. In perspective that’s one death every three years. When that person is a loved one the statistics are outrageous.
A week before Baby Graves’ tragic death, an alligator was discovered with a man’s body in its mouth in Lake Hunter in Lakeland, Florida.
Last year two deaths involving alligators were reported in Florida though only one was officially blamed on an alligator. One involved a 22-year old man whose body was found in a pond in Brevard County, Florida. A month before that, a 62-year old man died while snorkeling at Blue Spring State Park near Orange City, Florida. Because no one witnessed the actual attack, it may not have been added to the death toll. That’s not comforting.
Last summer a man in Orange County Texas in his late twenties died after ignoring posted signs warning of alligators in the area. One of the last things he did before lunging into the water was taunt a nearby alligator.
Whether you’re a mariner on the high seas or the occasional tourist, if you travel long enough and wide enough, you’re likely going to find yourself in a land where gators and crocodiles are abundant. It could be a trip to Florida, or a cruise to some tropical island.
Avoid water and swimming at night. Alligators come out to feed from dawn to dusk. That’s not to say, you won’t be attacked during the day if you swim in a pond alligators inhabit. Use common sense.
Alligators feed on small animals, birds, and turtles. They’re not particularly interested in adult humans. They’re way too big. Children and pets are the size of the creatures they hunt so take precautions to safeguard them. With splashing, even adults submerged in water look more like a meal to a ravenous gator.
Crouching or kneeling before an alligator is something only a moron would do. Let me tell you a story about Lester. There was this photographer who thought it was pretty cool to get in the face of an alligator so he could take his picture. Evidently Lester never heard of using a longer lens to bring him up closer. When he squatted down, Lester was signing his own death warrant. All the gator had to do was execute it. You see, when Lester knelt, he made two fatal mistakes with one motion. He made himself smaller by crouching, and he put his body in a mechanical disadvantage. With one swift lunge, that gator would have had Lester’s camera and his neck crushed in the vice of his jaws before he even pressed the shutter. The gator let Lester live that day, but given his lack of common sense, my money is on the gator next time round, who has a brain no bigger than a walnut but evidently bigger than Lester’s. Continue reading →