Don't feed the gators Published May 30, 2018 Robins Public Affairs ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- In the southeastern United States, the growing number of people living near water and taking part in water related recreation has led to a steady rise in the number of alligator sightings and reports to local officials. The majority of reports relate to alligators being where they simply are not wanted. At Robins Air Force Base, Airmen are increasingly using trails, pavilions and bodies of water for recreation and physical fitness activities. That results in increased interactions between people and alligators. Alligators are an important part of the ecosystem and play a valuable role in wetlands, swamps, rivers and lakes. Alligators are predators that help keep other animal populations in balance and contribute to the overall health of our natural areas. Alligators can be found in every body of water across the installation, and occasionally come out of the water to bask in the sun or move between wetlands. In most cases, if left alone, alligators will move on to areas away from people. A better understanding of the following safety tips will help ensure that people and alligators can continue to coexist. Safety Tips An alligator should have a natural fear of humans. If an alligator seems interested in you or approaches you unprovoked, it has lost its natural fear and can pose a serious threat. This is a dangerous situation, and you need to get away immediately. Unless handled, alligators less than 4-feet in length are not large enough to pose a significant threat. However, if you encounter an alligator of any size that you believe poses a threat to people, pets or property, get away and call the Natural Resources Program Manager (478-327-9273). Please be aware, nuisance alligators are killed, not relocated. Leave alligators alone. State and federal law prohibits feeding, killing, harassing or possessing alligators. Handling even small alligators is illegal and can result in injury. Never feed alligators – it’s dangerous and illegal. When fed, alligators overcome their natural fear and learn to associate people with food. When that happens they become dependent on that food source, grow increasingly aggressive and eventually have to be removed and killed. When near water for recreation or physical fitness, dispose of fish scraps, excess bait, water bottles, etc. in the appropriate trash receptacle. Do not throw them into the water, although you are not intentionally feeding alligators when you do this, the result can be the same. Fish that are caught and released should be placed in the water and not thrown in close proximity to an alligator. Alligators are most active between dusk and dawn. Therefore, take precaution during these times near bodies of water. Dogs and cats are similar in size to the natural prey of alligators. Don’t allow pets to swim, exercise, or drink in or near waters that may contain alligators. Swimming and wading is not permitted in any body of water on Robins Air Force Base. Observe and photograph alligators only from a distance. Remember, they are an integral component of our ecosystem.