The Gator Guide

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A hot topic among those that visit Hilton Head Island, frequent visitors tend to know the drill and even look forward to seeing them sunbathing or skulking about in a nearby pond. On the other hand, first-time visitors might be hesitant about these modern-day dinosaurs—and that’s very understandable. These powerful reptiles shouldn’t be messed with, but we also don’t want anyone’s fear of alligators keeping them from exploring our beautiful island.

This guide is meant to give you some piece of mind and a solid understanding of how to keep both yourself and these crocodilian creatures safe.

Photo by Brian Yurasits


This can actually apply to all wildlife, but in this case, it’s extremely important to never feed alligators. There’s a reason for the saying, “A fed gator, is a dead gator,” since the act of feeding an alligator is not only illegal in South Carolina but also may come to a sad—and otherwise avoidable—outcome. Alligators end up associating humans with food, meaning that they lose their fear of people. So let them find their own catch of the day, snap the photo, and move on.


Smart phones these days have incredible camera quality, so there’s really never a reason for you to get closer than you already are to an alligator. In fact, you should be doing the opposite: give them as much space as possible. These creatures have incredible speed over short distances, and although they usually won’t chase people just for fun, they might interpret your approach as a threat.

In the rare occurrence when an alligator crosses your path, stay calm and give it as much room as possible. Alligators typically are the most active at night, dawn, or dusk, but sometimes they want to travel to the next pond in the middle of the day. They’ll be on a mission and won’t want to bother you as long as you don’t get in their way. Be as patient, calm, and respectful as possible while they finish crossing a path or road. We say patient, because they might take a couple of breaks on their journey regardless how short it is.  


Alligators can’t differentiate your pet from a wild animal, so the best way to keep your pets safe is to keep them on a leash and far from any ponds or marshy areas in general. Children can also be curious about these creatures and will want to get a closer look, so keep them away from the edge of ponds regardless if you see an alligator or not.

It’s best to just leave the island’s alligators alone, end of story. Maybe that’s where the phrase, “see you later, alligator,” comes from.

Contact the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources regarding alligator disturbances. The number for Beaufort County is (803) 625-3569.

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