CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Gator sightings are going to be more common after the recent summer downpours, wildlife experts say.
Robert Vanwormer, owner of Southern Trappers says there are several reasons more gators are out now. For one, gators' normal habitats are flooded. The animals thrive in environments with both water and land, and Vanwormer says people's yards sometimes serve that purpose when flooding forces gators to relocate.
A Moncks Corner family snapped pictures of a fairly large gator Tuesday in a flooded pond behind their home.
A Mount Pleasant family spotted a gator in their backyard with a soccer ball in its mouth.
It all started with the ice bucket challenge for the Matteo family. It's a nationwide trend to raise money for several causes.
The family was in for a surprise when they got done.
Chris Matteo said, "All of a sudden out of the corner of my eye, I saw this huge alligator with a soccer ball in its mouth."
The shredded soccer ball is still in their backyard.
"This is the first time it's come this close to our house and it's kind of scary," said Matteo.
The Matteos say their pond is a lot higher right now and that's where an animal trapper says the problem comes in.
"Whenever these little ponds that they're in gets overflowed, then they're not able to catch fish as easily as they were able to, so then they depend on their ambush predator instincts to catch raccoons and possums," said Robert Vanwormer.
Those animals live on land and Robert Vanwormer says that draws the gators into areas like our backyards.
Vanwormer said, "Whenever it comes to gators, it's really all about animal instinct of where do I get my next food, where do I get my next meal."
Vanwormer says when neighborhood ponds and swamp areas are flooded; pets can also turn into meals as well.
"The best thing to do is just stay away from them, take a different path," said Vanwormer, "A gator can actually run about 25 miles an hour in a short distance to get that animal."
When it floods, Vanwormer says you should pay attention to how often a gator is showing up at your pond.
Vanwormer said, "If the gator's only there for one day, I would just try to ignore it. But if it comes back there for a second a third day call DNR, get the gator removed because it's now established."
A spokesperson with the SC Department of Natural Resources says you can call (800) 922-5431 if you spot a gator in your yard or public space. The department will either send out an agent or point you in the right direction, depending on the size of the animal and urgency of the situation.