JACKSON, MISS– Mississippi Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks experts have shared information about alligators in the Magnolia state after the death of two-year-old Lane Graves at a Disney Resort in Florida.
Graves’ body was discovered in the lagoon at the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa after he was dragged in by an alligator as the boy’s parents attempted to rescue him.
There have been 23 alligator-related deaths recorded in Florida since the 1940s.
Ricky Flynt, alligator expert with MWFP, said that a run-in with a gator is uncommon, and unlike what is portrayed on television because they do not typically search out humans.
“Alligators will avoid humans and human activity in the wild,” Flynt said. “They will leave you alone most of the time.”
Alligators only attack when they feel threatened or, in a much more common case, the perceived threat of humans diminishes.
“The most dangerous situation that exists with alligators is when someone feeds them because they associate human activity with a source of food,” said Flynt. “In Mississippi, feeding a gator is against the law. If they associate you with food, they will come to you.”
Flynt said that is often the case in areas of encroachment. If people have fed the gators in that spot before, they come back for more food.
“If you see anyone or have any information about people feeding alligators, we need to know about it,” said Flynt.
In the event that a person is found to have been feeding an alligator in Mississippi they are assessed a fine, but the alligator has to be dispatched in order to neutralize the threat of harm to humans.
Flynt said that a gator attack has not been reported to date in Mississippi.
“Fortunately, here in the state of Mississippi,” Flynt said. “Never has there been an alligator attack on a human. It has never been recorded.”
Flynt credited the absence of alligator attacks in Mississippi on the enforcement of anti-feeding laws and credible complaints of alligators as public nuisances.
“Even on the Pearl River, at the Ross Barnett Reservoir,” Flynt said. “Arguably the densest population of alligators in the state with thousands of hours of recreational activity there..and we’ve never had an attack there or the rest of the state.”