MUSCOGEE COUNTY, Ga. — The Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office said it is seeing an uptick in the number of alligator sightings in the Chattahoochee River.
So far this season, the sheriff’s office said it has spotted 30 gators near the river, WTVM-TV reports.
The Chattahoochee runs from Georgia Mountains, down into Florida, making it an easy path for the large reptiles to work their way north.
Deputies with the Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office are warning people in the Columbus area to keep an eye on the small pets and little ones if they are going near the river.
“You need to be aware of while you’re on the river walk, and you need to be aware of why you’re in the Chattahoochee River and enjoying yourself,” Muscogee County Underwater Criminal Investigator Russell Sharman told WTVM.
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In August, Channel 2 Action News reported that a UGA student had spotted a gator in the Oconee River near Athens.
“I thought it was a log when I first saw it. But I got a closer look,” UGA senior Alexa Leahy said.
The biology major has spent a lot of time in Florida and coastal Carolina and knows an alligator when she sees one.
It’s a rare sighting this far north of what is known as Georgia’s Fall Line, or what scientists say was the prehistoric shore of the Atlantic Ocean.
Leahy says she has heard some of her professors suggest that global warming could bring a gator this far, or maybe somebody once had a one-footer in their terrarium and let it loose when it got too big.
“Alligators usually remain in the area where they were born for two to three years and then begin looking for their own range. Females generally have small home ranges while a male may occupy a range of more than two square miles. Severe drought conditions may cause alligators to move considerable distances in search of suitable waters,” The Georgia Department of Natural Resources said.
There are approximately 200,000-250,000 alligators in the state of Georgia, DNR said. From 1980 until July 2023, there were only nine reported cases of alligator attacks on humans in Georgia, including one fatality in 2007.
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