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Wildlife experts: Stay away from alligators, attacks have been deadly

Warning comes after woman was killed by gator near lagoon in Hilton Head

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Wildlife experts are warning people to keep their distance when it comes to alligators and to stay away from areas where they are known to lurk. 

The renewed warning of danger came after a 45-year-old woman was killed by an alligator while walking her dog along a lagoon in Hilton Head, South Carolina. The dog survived; the alligator was captured and killed.  But a Jacksonville zoo keeper said that gator wasn't after the woman, it was after the dog.

"They really don't want to come towards us as far as humans go because we're much larger than anything they naturally hunt," said Cayle Pearson, supervisor of herpetology, at the Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens.

Alligator attacks are rare, but recently there have been two killings. In June, a woman was walking her dog along a lake in South Florida when she was attacked and killed by a gator. And this week a woman in South Carolina was killed while walking her dog.

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"It's a good idea to keep at least a 4-to-5 foot distance from any water's edge because they are ambush predators and very opportunistic when it comes to food as well," Pearson said.

Experts say alligators can be difficult to spot.

"They are dark colored on the outside of their bodies, so they just kind of blend in," Pearson said.

And alligators can lurk in just about any body of water. So what should you do if you encounter a gator?

"There's an old wives' tale about running zigzag from an alligator; it's best to just to move away from them as fast as you can. Get large obstacles between you and them, once you have visual barriers or anything they have to work around, it's probably going to reduce their desire to come towards you," said Pearson.

Pearson said prime hunting times for alligators are dawn and dusk, but they'll take advantage of any opportunity to feed, so he urges people to always be on the lookout.

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