Sitting along the roughly 301-mile-long Savannah River is Augusta — one of Georgia’s liveliest cities. It’s home to more than 200,000 people and countless mammals, ranging from raccoons and rabbits to red foxes, coyotes, and white-tail deer. Additionally, many reptiles inhabit this part of The Peach State, including turtles, snakes, and the powerful – sometimes laid-back – alligators!
With the countless gators in Augusta, some Georgians have expressed concerns about their safety in this city. Given that nearly 500 “unprovoked” gator attacks were reported in the United States between 1948 and 2021, it’s only natural for them to think they’re in danger. You’ll find this piece useful if you’re in this worried lot or just an inquisitive traveler planning to discover the region someday.
Read on to know whether you’re safe in or near alligator-infested water bodies in Augusta and amass valuable knowledge about these fascinating representatives of the Alligatoridae family.
Alligator Sightings and Attacks in Augusta
Alligators are native to Georgia and have been spotted in many parts of Augusta. You’ll likely encounter these animals during the mating season, usually around May and June — this is when the dominant males mark their territories by pushing the younger species out of their habitats. As a result, the juveniles roam the land to avoid confrontations with their older relatives and search for food and temporary shelter. Also, mature females move around hunting for partners.
Downpour is another factor that increases alligator sightings in Augusta. The heavy rains create stagnant waters all over the city. Because gators love damp areas, they flock to them in large numbers. You may stumble upon these large reptiles in unexpected places like roadways, parking lots, or on your property.
Gator Attacks in Augusta
Alligators have reportedly killed humans in various parts of the United States. For instance, these animals often attack people in Florida and even claim lives, explaining why they’re bad news for most Georgians.
But fortunately, you have little to worry about as an Augusta resident. Only a few gator attacks have been recorded in this city, and none have been fatal. The chances of these reptiles biting you are almost zilch unless you provoke them. Georgia only recorded one deadly alligator attack in 2007 on Skidaway Island.
Can You Hunt Alligators in Augusta?
Augusta has a stable gator population. However, you can only harvest these reptiles during the alligator season, usually between August and October. To legally do that, you’ll also need the following:
- A hunting license
- A harvest permit
- A temporary alligator harvest tag
- An approval permit
Note that under Georgia law, you can’t kill an alligator without the above documents, even if you find it on your land. At the same time, harvesting these animals out of season is illegal, and it could attract fines of up to $1,000 and 12 months of jail time. For example, in 2022, two men were charged with killing an almost 11-foot gator near Augusta.
Which Alligator Species Live in Augusta?
Augusta only hosts one gator species — the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis). Most people confuse it with the endangered American crocodile. But these two reptiles are different, which you can easily tell by looking at their teeth.
So, unlike crocodiles, the massive fourth tooth in the American alligator’s jaw comfortably fits into a socket in the upper jaw, preventing you from seeing it when the creature shuts its mouth. Most of the gator’s teeth fall off as it ages, but it replaces them soon after. Therefore, it grows to 3,000 teeth in 30-50 years. Other features of the species are:
- Their body lengths range between 6 and 14 feet.
- Adult American gators have a dark gray or almost black shade with a lighter underside.
- Their front feet boast five toes, while the rear has four webbed toes.
- Males gators are usually larger than females.
- American alligators are carnivores that feed on animals like snails, fish, frogs, and mammals.
7 Things to Know About Alligators
1. Only Two Species Exist
As of this writing, we only have two extant alligator species — the American and Chinese alligators. Like the former, the latter is also endangered, but the two reptiles vary in different ways. For instance, unlike its American counterpart, the Chinese alligator boasts a smaller, sturdier head.
But that’s not the only aspect that makes Chinese alligators one of a kind. It’s the sole representative of the Alligatoridae family known to thrive outside the Americas. Today, it lives in eastern China, in the Anhui and Zhejiang provinces, inhabiting the regions’ wetlands, ponds, rivers, lakes, and streams.
2. Gators Dislike Eating People
As unbelievable as it might sound, gators don’t like eating or attacking people, despite being opportunistic feeders. Their first food choices are animals like snails, mammals, and birds. With their powerful jaws and sharp teeth, seizing and killing their prey is effortless. More often than not, they tend to swallow the creatures whole. However, if they’re large, the potent reptiles take their time, biting and tearing them into smaller, easier-to-swallow chunks.
Notably, even when alligators attack humans, they don’t perceive them as food. Instead, they only do it because they feel threatened, usually when people swim or indulge in other water activities in the animals’ territories. That’s why staying out of an alligator’s way is advisable if you run into it anywhere, whether on land or in the water.
3. They Don’t Hibernate
Countless animals, including chipmunks, hamsters, hedgehogs, and bats, hibernate to survive adverse conditions like harsh climates or inadequate food. However, the gators, like frogs, snakes, and lizards, brumate because they depend on their environment for temperature regulation.
Therefore, in the cold winters, these reptiles dig mud holes, which can be up to 65 feet long, to shelter and keep them warm. When summer arrives or when the sun comes out, they emerge to bask, often opening their mouths to dispel excess warmth when the heat intensifies.
Usually, gators hibernate for 4-5 months, choosing to stay at the bottom of slow-moving waters like swamps and bayous most of the time. Even so, if the water bodies freeze, they “snorkel” or surface their snouts’ tips above their ice while the rest of their bodies remain under. It’s also common for these scaly animals to leave their habitats during brumation to breathe.
4. They Also Have Predators
Despite being apex predators, alligators – especially the juveniles – are prey for other animals, including these species:
Pythons frequently prey on young alligators. The large snake species boasts an unmatched power and a unique shape that enables them to crush the short-legged reptiles by merely wrapping its body around them. Sometimes, they may even swallow the gators whole, which usually takes more than five hours.
Typically, lions aren’t fond of being in the water, so killing or attacking alligators is not on their list of priorities. However, both species are apex predators built to hunt, explaining why they often clash.
Lions mainly attack alligators when competing for food since their diet is nearly similar. The cats will also hurt the reptiles to defend themselves in cases where the latter attacks first.
But note that if a lion comes at a gator in the water, it’s likely to lose as the reptile is much faster in its territory. On the other hand, lions are more comfortable on land and are likely to beat alligators on it.
The jaguar is another cat that preys on alligators, caimans, and crocodiles. They are often successful because of their fast speeds that enable them to ambush and grab the reptiles quickly. Besides, the felines are skilled swimmers, meaning the gators don’t even have the upper hand in the water, and their bites are so powerful that they can quickly kill the alligators.
A jaguar’s boldness is another aspect that makes it a talented gator hunter. The cat approaches alligator-infested waters unfazed, stalking the reptiles and piercing their skulls with its long canine teeth as soon as the opportunity presents itself.
At first glance, the enormous hippos are gentle and lazy. They are also territorial creatures that quickly become hostile when provoked. One of the reasons these creatures occasionally kill alligators is their incredible jaw strength – it’s powerful enough to snap off the reptiles’ heads.
If a hippo attacks a gator, the animal is likely in its territory, which is hard not to be since both creatures live in the water. The massive mammal also kills the reptile to protect its young.
Note that hippos only kill alligators; they don’t eat them as they’re herbivores whose diet mainly contains grass, water, fruits, and plants. Still, you’ll occasionally find younger species chewing on dead alligators’ skins as they facilitate teething.
Regrettably, cannibalism is commonplace in the alligator universe. More often than not, adult gators feed on the younger ones when they lack enough food. Sometimes, the females eat their eggs due to dehydration or devour their hatchlings if they can’t properly care for them.
Nevertheless, female alligators are commendable mothers. They use sticks, plants, and other debris to construct large nests where they lay their eggs and cover them to protect them. As they grow, the reptiles try to keep predators like raccoons at bay, rolling the eggs regularly to help them hatch.
After hatching, mother alligators keep their babies close for 1-2 years and will even kill to ensure no harm befalls them; this is the main reason the creatures become super aggressive when people try to take their young at this stage.
While some people dread alligators, others spend much time pursuing them for their delicious white meat. The latter is a popular treat in various parts of the world, including South Carolina, Louisiana, Texas, and Florida, where hunting the reptiles is legal. Here are a few reasons why gator meat is a favorite for many:
- It’s a source of high-quality protein.
- It contains essential nutrients like vitamin B-12, potassium, and iron.
- It has low saturated fat.
- It has fewer calories.
- It is tender and super delicious.
- It’s versatile and can easily make other treats, including sausages, filets, and hamburgers.
Humans also hunt alligators because of their quality skin, which is handy when making elegant items like handbags, footwear, sports equipment, furniture, and clothes.
5. Most Female Gators are Monogamous
Most animals, including reptiles, don’t stick to one mate. Studies have found that female alligators are monogamists who prefer mating with the same partner.
Typically, alligators mate once per year, mainly in June. Although these creatures have poor social skills, they go out of their way to participate in complex mating rituals as they scour their territory for potential mates. The males make low bellowing sounds, use their jaws to slap the water, and raise their tails to announce their presence.
When gators find prospects, they press and rub each other’s backs and snouts to signify the beginning of courtship. The males prove their strength to show the females they’re the best bet. While this process could take hours, copulation only takes fewer than 30 seconds.
6. Alligators are Ancient Creatures
Like the now-extinct dinosaurs, gators have been around for eons. Factually, the first gator is believed to have appeared 245 million years ago, even before the crocodiles showed up during the Cretaceous Period. Most of these ancient creatures were remnants of the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction, and scientists are yet to figure out how or why they survived while so many of their relatives perished.
Some people speculate that alligators could be dinosaurs — after all, they both lived millions of years ago; they’re massive, and both members of the group Archosauria, which also includes birds. But – unfortunately for them – that’s just a myth.
7. Their Severed Tails Grow Back
Research shows that young alligators, like lizards, can regrow their cut tails. However, unlike their smaller cousins, these juveniles replace the severed parts with cartilage, connective tissue and are devoid of skeletal muscle. Moreover, it’s still unknown whether adult species can do the same.
Some scientists are leveraging this interesting discovery to unlock effective treatments for people with traumatic injuries. Though nothing’s been confirmed yet, their success could be a game changer for such patients worldwide.
You’re Out of the Woods
Although countless gators inhabit Augusta, there’s no need to panic because these intriguing reptiles seldom attack people. However, that shouldn’t encourage you to throw caution to the wind if you encounter an alligator on land or within your property. Steer clear of it, and then notify the Georgia Department of Natural Resources or local police so they can come and capture the creature.
Leave a gator alone when you spot it in a pond, river, or other water body. Since that’s its home, seizing or removing it is uncalled for. The best you can do is marvel at the reptile’s cool looks or unique features, such as its broad, U-shaped snout that distinguishes it from the much larger and more aggressive crocodile.
Still, if gators fascinate you, and you’re looking for closer encounters with them, visit some of the parks in Augusta. A great option to consider is the Phinizy Swamp Nature Park, which hosts reptiles and other captivating species like pigmy rattlesnakes and turtles.
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