COLUMBIA, S.C. (WBTW) — As alligators become more active during the warmer weather, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources says people should be more aware when they are around water.

“Nearly any water body in the coastal plain of South Carolina may contain alligators, and the mere presence of alligators in or adjacent to their natural habitat in South Carolina is a normal occurrence and not normally an emergency requiring the animal’s removal,” the DNR said in a news release.

The DNR says it’s never a good idea to feed or approach an alligator of any size.

“Not only is it illegal in South Carolina to feed alligators, but it also teaches them to associate people with food, the DNR said. “This can cause alligators to lose their natural fear of humans. In many cases, fed alligators will begin to approach at the sight of people and may become aggressive in seeking a handout. Also, don’t dispose of fish scraps or crab bait in the water at boat ramps, docks, swimming or camping areas. You can inadvertently be feeding alligators.”

People also need to be aware of their surroundings and should avoid swimming in areas where alligators are known to live.

“Alligators normally are more active during the night and can mistake splashing noises for prey,” the DNR said. “Only swim in areas designated for swimming. Higher levels of human activity found in designated swimming areas typically make alligators keep their distance. Other potential dangers include steep drop-offs, stumps, rocks, and other underwater obstructions that you may not be able to see if the location is not a designated swimming area. Also, never swim alone, not just because of alligators, but also as a normal safety measure.”

The DNR said it’s also important to keep pets out of the water if alligators are present because they are more vulnerable because of their smaller size and resemblance to alligators’ typical prey.

“If an alligator grabs your pet, let go of the leash,” the DNR said.

Alligators can cover short distances very quickly, but seldom move toward people, the DNR said, and that “if an alligator hisses, it’s a warning that you are too close.”

Anyone who sees an alligator in a place where it cannot reasonably be expected to get back to the water without posing a risk to itself or to others, or is in a location that presents an immediate hazard, such as a road, school, pool, parking lot, should contact the DNR at 800-922-5431.

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Dennis Bright is a digital producer at News13. Dennis is a West Virginia native and graduate of Marshall University. He has won copyediting and journalism awards in Virginia and Ohio. Follow Dennis on Twitter and read more of his work here.