Georgia, The Peach State, is located in the Southeastern region of the US. If you’re planning to move or visit there, you may be wondering if there are alligators. After all, they can be pretty terrifying.
Are there alligators in Georgia? Yes, there are alligators in Georgia. Okefenokee Swamp in southern Georgia is home to about 13,000 of them. However, alligator attacks are rare in the state. Since 1980, there has been only one fatality and eight known attacks.
Read on to learn more about alligators in Georgia, how they differ from crocodiles, their locations in the state, and what to do if you see one.
Alligators vs Crocodiles
It’s easy to confuse alligators and crocodiles because they are related. So, how can you tell them apart?
- Snouts. Alligators have rounded snouts, while many crocodile species have long and pointed ones.
- Climate. Crocodiles prefer tropical and subtropical areas like southern Florida’s saltwater or brackish habitats in coastal areas. Alligators commonly live in colder climates with freshwater regions like ponds, swamps, and rivers.
- Jaw. An alligator’s closed jaw doesn’t reveal its teeth, while a crocodile exposes a few.
American Alligator Quick Facts
|Next of Kin||Alligators are among the last living reptiles closely related to dinosaurs. However, their closest modern ‘relatives’ are the birds.|
|Eyesight||Alligators have a nictitating membrane, a transparent or translucent third eyelid, that protects their eyes and let them see underwater. However, they have relatively poor eyesight.|
|Speed||Wild alligators rarely chase people, but they can run up to 35 miles an hour on short land distances.|
|Size||Male alligators range from 11 to 12 feet long and weigh between 400 and 500 pounds. Females are about 8 to 9 feet in length.|
|Lifespan||Wild alligators live around 30 years and 50 years in captivity.|
Georgia closely monitors the alligator population, supported by a state law that allows the reptiles to be hunted by licensed trappers through a program.
Believed to have reached a population of about 250,000 as of 2015, most alligators trapped were about seven feet long. Given their sizes, it wasn’t feasible to relocate them, according to Melissa Cummings, a spokesperson for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
In 2006, trappers could remove an average of nearly 300 alligators longer than four feet, a size conducive for relocation. The number tapered to about 180 in 2013.
Trappers who aren’t paid by the state keep the alligator meat and hide.
Where Do Alligators Live In Georgia?
While once endangered in the 1950s due to unregulated market hunting and habitat alteration, alligators went back to their favorite habitats – rivers, creeks, and backwater sloughs.
Despite reported alligator-related incidents in states like Orlando, Florida (Disney World), alligator attacks are rare In Georgia. According to state wildlife and parks officials, the state only had one fatality and eight known attacks since 1980.
Where are alligators in Georgia?
Running through Ware, Charlton, and Clinch Counties in southern Georgia (including Baker County in northern Florida), Okefenokee Swamp is home to the majority of Georgia’s alligators.
An estimated 10,000 to 13,000 alligators are believed to inhabit the 396,000 acres of Okefenokee National Wild Refuge. According to ranger Maggie O’Connell, a survey reveals that the population remained stable over the past years and is evenly distributed throughout the swamp.
A trapper captured and removed four alligators from Reed Bingham State Park in southern Georgia in 2016.
According to The Valdosta Daily Times, three of the 6-feet long gators were euthanized. The fourth was relocated to the south of the park, according to Kim Hatcher, a Georgia State Parks spokesperson.
One was spotted near a drinking water reservoir and fishing destination in the metro Atlanta area.
According to Coweta Water and Sewage Authority human resources director Mandy Sledd, an employee at the B. T. Brown Reservoir north of Newnan saw the gator during a scheduled reservoir inspection.
According to the DNR website, about 170 nuisance alligators have been removed from the state yearly. It also states no evidence that alligators reproduce north of the fall line (Columbus through Macon to Augusta).
Are there Savannah, Georgia alligators? Yes, there are. The only alligator-caused fatality in Georgia happened at The Landings in 2007. An older woman was housesitting for relatives when she was attacked.
In Chattahoochee River in the southeastern corner of Union County, Georgia, a 6-foot female alligator lived in the Cochran Shoals area for nearly a decade before being spotted in 2007. The reptile was caught and transported to an alligator range in south Georgia in May 2016.
In 2016, an alligator measuring 2 to 3 feet was spotted on the northern part of Lake Lanier near Don Carter State Park. Georgia DNR warned people to give the reptile space even when the gator didn’t pose any threat to the public.
In 2019, a farmer found an alligator that weighed around 700 to 750 pounds in an irrigation ditch near Lake Blackshear.
The gator stayed in the ditch for a week, which was unusual. Believing that the reptile was unwell, DNR had it euthanized.
See an Alligator in Georgia? Here’s What to Do
By nature, alligators are territorial, and the continually rising human population also increases potential encounters between the reptile and people.
When such an instance arises, what should you do?
1. Slowly Move Away
You’re too close to one if you can hear an alligator hiss. Instead of searching where it’s at, move away as far as possible.
Alligators naturally fear humans, quickly retreating when approached. If you chance upon an alligator a few yards away, slowly back away. They are quick and agile in defending themselves when cornered, especially a female protecting her nest.
2. Wait Before Alerting Authorities
During summer and spring, alligators move to breed and find new habitats. Smaller ones can also be pushed out of their normal habitat by larger alligators. Unless they’re approaching people or posing an obvious threat, wait a few days to a week. Smaller alligators usually move further after that time.
Similarly, alligators bask along streams and ponds to warm their bodies with their mouths open. They’re not actively hunting, just cooling down their body temperatures because they can’t pant like dogs or sweat like humans. They usually retreat to the water when people approach them. However, it’s time to notify the authorities when they leave the water banks and spend time near homes or livestock pens.
3. Keep Your Pet on a Leash
Alligators have a keen sense of smell, particularly for an ‘easy food source.’ If you live in areas with alligator sightings, walk your pets on a leash.
4. Stay Alert When Fishing
Top-water fishing lures attract alligators, but many are easily scared away by boats. If they linger around at a close distance without submersing, paddle away.
Dispose of fish scraps in designated trash bins or personal receptacles when boating, fishing, or camping.
6. Never Feed Alligators
It’s punishable by law and encourages alligators to lose their natural shyness around people.
Conclusion: Are There Alligators in Georgia?
If you are near water in Georgia, you can be in an alligator’s habitat. However, alligator attacks are rare in the state.
From Georgia’s lively cities and breathtaking landscapes to delectable cuisines and friendly locals, time will fly whether you’re swimming in the Black Sea or skiing the slopes of the Caucasus mountains.