Coexisting With Alligators


Living With Alligators

Alligators have inhabited Texas’ marshes, swamps, rivers, ponds, and lakes for many centuries. They are an important part of Texas’ natural history, as well as an integral component of freshwater ecosystems. As Sugar Land has continued to grow and waterways continue to be added and developed, there exists the potential for increased interactions between people and alligators. Once endangered, alligators were taken off the endangered species list in 1978, however, they are still protected by law. Alligators are found in 10 different states, and here in Texas they are found in 120 of 254 counties, including Fort Bend.

A better understanding of alligators and their behavior will help ensure that people and alligators can continue to coexist. Alligators naturally shy away from humans and prefer isolated areas away from people. In the spring and summer, alligators are moving to breed and find new habitat. Most of the alligators seen moving around are the smaller ones that have been pushed out of their normal habitat by larger alligators. Usually, these smaller alligators will move further on in a week or two. Our most active months here in Sugar Land are April through July.

Nuisance Alligators

Most Texans who live in “gator country” will live in proximity to these native reptiles with no confrontations, however, there are occasions when certain alligators become a nuisance and must be handled by the proper authorities. The current legal definition of a nuisance alligator is “an alligator that is depredating (killing livestock or pets) or a threat to human health and safety.” We do not go out for animals in their natural habitat unless they are a nuisance. Texas Parks and Wildlife is the only authority that can deem an alligator dangerous because of their protected status. 

The following are instances in which local authorities should be notified:

  • If you see an alligator in the roadway
  • If an alligator is repeatedly following boats, canoes or other watercrafts, and/or maintains a close distance without submersing
  • If you walk near the water and an alligator comes straight toward you, especially if it comes out of the water.

To report a nuisance alligator, citizens can contact Police Dispatch at 281-275-2020 or Animal Services at 281-275-A-DOG for alligators under 4 feet in length. Animal Services will respond and relocate nuisance alligators under 4 feet in length to the nearest suitable body of water. For larger alligators, Animal Services will respond to assess the situation and offer guidance.

Alligator Tips

Sugar Land residents should be watchful of alligators, snakes, and other wildlife along the city’s many natural waterways, follow posted signage, and share these alligator tips:

  • Leave alligators alone. State law prohibits killing, harassing, or possessing alligators.
  • Never feed or entice alligators, it is dangerous and illegal.
  • Don’t throw fish scraps in the water or leave them on shore
  • Closely supervise children when they are playing in or around water. Never allow small children to play unsupervised near water.
  • Alligators are most active between dusk and dawn when they are feeding. Therefore, swim only during daylight hours.
  • Don’t allow pets to swim, exercise, or drink in or near waters that may contain alligators. Dogs are more susceptible to being targeted by an alligator than people, because they resemble natural prey. Keep your pet on a leash and in control when walking around the water.
  • If you hear an alligator hiss, it is a warning that you are too close
  • Never make the mistake of thinking that an alligator is slow and lethargic. They can run up to 35 miles an hour for short distances. If you have a close encounter back up slowly. A female alligator protecting her nest might charge you, but she will quickly return to her nest.

Additional Information

  • Texas Parks and Wildlife — Check out their wildlife fact sheets on wildlife you might encounter and their information on nuisance wildlife which makes its way into our neighborhoods.