By Paul Gattis
The city of Huntsville says there has been a recent “uptick in sightings” of alligators in parts of the Rocket City.
The city posted a story on its website Wednesday about reports of more alligator sightings in the southern and western areas of the city – which would be areas near the Tennessee River and wetlands further inland from the river.
A specific location of sightings has been the wetlands along Haysland Road that are part of a nature preserve within the larger Hays Farm development. The city is in the process of putting signs along the greenway to warn people of alligators possibly being in the area.
Alligator attacks are rare and the city said there have been no reports of an attack in Huntsville.
Alligators are not unfamiliar to the region with the city saying there have been sightings along Zierdt Road on the border between Huntsville and Madison as well as in neighboring Morgan County and Lauderdale County in the northwest corner of the state.
An Associated Press report in 2019 said that alligator reports in the Tennessee River date back to 1894. About 50 alligators were released in the 1970s into the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge between Huntsville and Decatur.
Dr. Karen Sheppard, the city’s animal services director, said she has frequently seen alligators in the wild. Keeping a safe distance is the best strategy, she said.
“Just leave them alone,” she said in the city story. “We should respect them from a distance.”
Councilwoman Jennie Robinson, whose south Huntsville district includes the Hays Farm development, said alligators should be respected.
“We are sharing our homes with each other and should recognize that they were there first,” she said in the city story. “We need to respect the alligators in their habitat as a protected species and use caution.”
The city said if an alligator poses a threat, call Huntsville Police, which will coordinate removal with state wildlife officials. For non-emergency requests, call HPD at 256-722-7100.