Why has common sense eluded those enthralled by an alligator?

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By Kathryn Jacewicz, Staff writer

Last weekend, an alligator found a new home in a retention pond that’s only a few feet from where I live.

I’m not a native Brunswick Countian, and I will admit, seeing one of these creatures up-close for the first time is an experience. It’s not like you see those kinds of animals on the shores of Lake Michigan or while you’re walking through the streets of downtown Chicago, so to a Midwesterner, it’s definitely an experience.

But even though I may not be as accustomed to the gators as some of the natives here, I do know well enough to keep my distance, not to invade it’s space and certainly not to feed it. Seems like common sense to me.

But after keeping a watchful eye on my new backyard pet over the past week, it’s shocked me and left me speechless how completely idiotic people behave around these massive creatures.

Over the past week, I’ve seen an entire family—dad, mom and child I’d guess is around 7 years old—stand on the edge of the pond and throw rocks into the water while the gator swankily swam only a few feet away.

I saw a cameraman from a local television news station come within about 10 feet of the gator while trying to capture his shot. He gave me a good enough scare, but when he got on the ground with his camera for a better angle, I nearly fell over.

He should have just lain down on the ground and yelled “Dinnertime!” as close as he was.

Then two people the cameraman and news reporter interviewed admitted to throwing food into the water for the gator. They were quick to list off the tasty treats they shared but were reluctant to show their sorry faces on camera, and only let the news use their voices.

My own sister came to visit last week and told me I was being too cautious as she inched closer and closer. In my mind, you better be safe than sorry. Alligators can weigh up to 1,000 pounds and have extremely strong jaws and pretty sharp teeth.

They can also run at speeds up to 35 mph—the average human can only run about 7 mph. I’m not going to take my chances with something that’s about five times faster than me and could eat me in a few chomps.

N.C. Wildlife Enforcement officer Matt Criscoe told me “feeding an alligator is the worst thing you can do.” If one is fed enough, it is going to assume every time a human approaches the water it has food and will come right up to the human.

So as tempting as it may be to walk down to the water, throw a rock at the gator, take a picture with it or toss him a Cheeto, don’t do it. I don’t want the alligator coming right up to me, and I sure as heck don’t want it to become comfortable enough with humans that it shows up at my front door, begging for a snack.