An alligator was found roaming the streets of West Baton Rouge Parish last week, as heavy rainfall has caused an uptick in sightings of Louisiana's state reptile, with high water driving them onto dry land.
When Addis police and West Baton Rouge sheriff's deputies arrived at the scene, the 6-foot alligator was hiding under a vehicle with its head by the driver's side door, police said. The officers were able to secure the gator until state wildlife officials arrived.
Addis Police Chief Ricky Anderson said his department has noticed an increase in calls related to alligator sightings after the flood in May and the recent storms around Louisiana.
LSU Area Aquaculture Specialist Mark Shirley said there are an estimated three million alligators in Louisiana, and as mating season approaches, it's not uncommon for male alligators to venture into new territories in search of female alligators.
"The combined rising water plus mating season has the alligators moving more, and that's why we're seeing them in subdivisions, in the bayous and drainage canals, pretty much all over South Louisiana," Shirley said.
If you encounter an alligator, the best response is to slowly back away. Do not attempt to approach the alligator or move it; state law prohibits the general public from handling or possessing the reptiles. Don't attempt to feed alligators, as this will condition them to approach humans in the future.
"In general, alligators among all the different crocodile species are probably the most docile, but they're still alligators and they are very dangerous, especially if you get in the vicinity of some of these big bulls that are trying to court female alligators," Shirley warned. "They can be aggressive if you're in a small boat such as a canoe or a kayak, they could potentially see you as a competitor. Also the females are very aggressive if you get near the nest, especially once they have laid their eggs."
Shirley said homeowners should watch alligators from afar if one turns up near their home, and he cautioned against interacting with them. Although they may appear slow and lethargic while on river banks, they "tend to be quite fast" on the prowl.
Not all alligators should be treated as a threat or "nuisance," and LDWF should only be contacted if the alligator is larger than four feet and repeatedly approaching people and pets or posing an otherwise obvious danger.
"In spring and summer, alligators move to breed or find new habitat" LDWF's alligator program explained. "Most of these alligators are smaller ones that have been pushed out of their normal habitat by larger alligators. Usually, these smaller alligators will move on in a week or two."
If there is an immediate threat, Anderson recommends calling 911 first, then LDWF.
"We'll definitely get there quicker, 911's the way to go if they're scared," Anderson said.
Meanwhile, some Louisiana residents are taking matters into their own hands.
Local pastor of Life Tabernacle Church in Central Tony Spell posted a photo on Instagram of himself and a six-foot alligator he had killed on Friday at a lake behind his church. Within an hour of the post, LDWF arrived at the scene and found Spell and the freshly shot alligator. He will now be facing a civil restitution fee of $375 for hunting the alligator out of season. It wasn't immediately clear why the alligator had gone into water near the church.