Why gators are ‘less interested in social distancing’ in NC right now

Alligator roaming in Calabash neighborhood on March 25, 2020. (Photo: Viewer)

NORTH CAROLINA, NC (WWAY) — Alligators sightings are on the rise in North Carolina and one of the reasons could partially be due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.

Wildlife Biologist Alicia Davis with the NC Wildlife Resources Commission says one reason for a spike in sightings is linked to people spending more time outside over the past several weeks.

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“People are spending more time at home due to the Stay-at-Home order and it’s relatively easy to follow social distancing recommendations while spending recreational time outdoors, so I would venture to guess that more people are spending more time in places where they can see alligators at this time of year,” Davis said.

Additionally, she says we are currently in the middle of alligator mating season, so “gators are much less interested in social distancing than we are right now.”

Davis explains adult alligators (i.e., 6 feet in length or larger) are typically solitary in nature, but will seek out other alligators to congregate with this time of year (in fact, a group of alligators is called a “congregation”) in hopes of finding a potential mate.

Many of the gators that people are seeing right now are probably out and about looking for that “special someone,” Davis says.

According to NC wildlife experts, mating activity will continue throughout the rest of May and into early June. Around mid-to late-June, the gravid adult females (i.e., those carrying fertilized eggs) will be heading to less open areas to look for spots where they can safely build their nests.

Until next spring, adult alligators will return to their solitary ways, with the exception of maternal females that will stay close to their young for the first 1-3 years after hatching in late August-early September.

“No matter the time of year, I always tell people to enjoy the opportunity to see an alligator, but remember to view them from a safe and respectful distance, regardless of their size,” Davis said. “How far away is safe? Picture the length of a full-size school bus and keep a minimum of that distance between you and even the smallest alligators, and double that distance for large alligators. For their own safety and out of respect for nature, people should always keep a distance of at least two school bus lengths away from any adult alligator in the wild.”