Officials warn Central Texans to stay clear of alligators as social media posts surface

WACO, Texas (KWTX) – Officials in Central Texas are concerned the social media buzz surrounding an alligator known as Gatorade, and its joyride in Axtell, will lead others to interact with the apex predators.

Until a game warden brought her travels to a halt, Gatorade took a motorcycle ride and visited a local “watering hole.”

Much of her journey was documented on social media. Now, she is safe and calls Waco’s Cameron Park Zoo home, but officials say this is an example of a larger issue.

“They are still an apex predator and they can be very very dangerous,” Cameron Park Zoo’s Animal Care Manager Gordon Henley said.

“You really want to not interact with them as much as possible. Naturally, alligators are actually afraid of people but as soon as you start to feed alligators you end up training them to come to people for a source of food.”

Plus, it can come with some hefty charges without a permit as alligators are protected in Texas. Those in Axtell who originally took the gator have been cited for illegal possession of an alligator, which carries a maximum penalty of $500.

And yet Henley says he continues to see these types of stories circulating online. He’s concerned that others are seeing people interact with the alligators and want to do the same, but it’s not safe.

“You are beginning to see more and more often because people do see things on social media,” Henley said.

“If it’s done by a professional it can look easy but it’s not a good idea.”

Other similar cases to “Gatorade” can be seen right at Cameron Park Zoo.

”The small alligator that we have on exhibit was brought to us from Texas Wildlife and it was brought from the Temple area,” Henley said.

“That one was actually brought across state lines illegally without permits.”

Henley says that alligators are not naturally found in the Central Texas area so finding them means it’s typically someone releasing them, but if you do happen to come across one, stay clear of it and simply call law enforcement.

He adds alligators are not something to play with and they do not make good pets. They grow very large, can live upwards of eighty years, and have unique diets and care so it’s best just to leave them alone or leave it to the professionals.

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