MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCBD) – With temperatures warming up as the Lowcountry approaches summer, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) is reminding people who live near bodies of water along the coast, like marshes, ponds, or rivers, to be cautious of your surroundings.

Kristan Leader, who is a stay-at-home mom, learned about an uninvited visitor in the driveway of her home in the Brickyard Plantation of Mount Pleasant when her neighbor called to alert her. 

An alligator was underneath her SUV.

“My first thought was what could have happened if they had run out there because their tiny little legs would have been right there,” said Leader, who was concerned about her children’s safety. 

The family, who was watching from an upstairs window, waited as Mt. Pleasant’s Animal Control attempted to catch and release the gator.  

Leader said Officer Heather Cumbee “came on her day off and came with another girl and they wrangled it within 15 minutes.” One of several calls Officer Cumbee has taken regarding alligators so far this season. 

“It’s a great feeling to go out and be able to educate and help the animals get to a safe place as well as keep the public safe, and hopefully the animal doesn’t end up back in that situation,” said Officer Cumbee. 

Experts say relocating gators from places like driveways or garages can come with difficulties.  

“Adult alligators have a strong homing instinct. They want to establish a home range and they will return to that home range even if relocated and they’ll walk over land to do that,” said Morgan Hart, who is the Alligator Project Leader for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. 

Hart explains more alligators are moving around as people move into spaces where those alligators are already living. 

“Alligators are often moving from pond to pond or from river to pond. They tend to try to move over land in a straight line and sometimes that means they end up in places they shouldn’t be like garages or under cars,” said Hart.  

A place where Leader said she will now check underneath from now on. 

The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources provided the following tips to help stay safe when it comes to alligators:

  • Never feed alligators. Not only is it illegal in South Carolina to feed alligators, but it also teaches them to associate people with food. This can cause alligators to lose their natural fear of humans. In many cases, fed alligators will begin to approach at the sight of people and may become aggressive in seeking a handout. Also, don’t dispose of fish scraps or crab bait in the water at boat ramps, docks, swimming or camping areas. You can inadvertently be feeding alligators.
  • If you see someone feeding alligators, contact the S.C. Department of Natural Resources at 1-800-922-5431.
  • Avoid swimming or playing in areas known to harbor alligators. As the size of an alligator increases, so does the size of prey that it can consume. Alligators normally are more active during the night and can mistake splashing noises for prey. Only swim in areas designated for swimming. Higher levels of human activity found in designated swimming areas typically make alligators keep their distance. Other potential dangers include steep drop-offs, stumps, rocks, and other underwater obstructions that you may not be able to see if the location is not a designated swimming area. Also, never swim alone, not just because of alligators, but also as a normal safety measure.
  • Keep pets out of the water if alligators are present. Pets are more vulnerable due to their smaller size and resemblance to alligators’ typical prey. Keep leashed pets away from the edge of the water, but if an alligator grabs your pet, let go of the leash.
  • Don’t approach an alligator, keep your distance and leave them alone. Alligators can move in quick bursts over short distances but normally do not try to run after people. If an alligator hisses, it’s a warning that you are too close.
  • If an alligator is in a place where it cannot reasonably be expected to get back to the water without posing a risk to itself or to others, or is in a location that presents an immediate hazard, such as a road, school, pool, parking lot, etc., contact SCDNR at 1-800-922-5431. Never attempt to capture or move an alligator by yourself.