courtesy of News 2 :
South Carolina Aquarium Herpetologist Josh Zalabak says, “Alligators are extremely important to their environment. They are an apex predator, so if you removed them from our ecosystem, it would throw the entire food chain out of whack.”
Their prime food sources include raccoons, turtles, and birds. In addition to keeping these animal populations in check, alligators provide shelter for other creatures.
Zalabak says, “They dig these really cool burrows, or gator holes as we call them, in the winter to stay warm. Those fill up with water and keep them warm throughout the winter. When they leave these holes, a lot of other animals use these as a habitat or place to reproduce.”
He says humans are not the desired food source for gators.
Zalabak says, “The best thing you can do if you see an alligator is just to ignore it or admire it from a distance. They are not going to bother you. The only time an alligator is going to approach a person is if it has been fed in the past. So extremely important not to feed wild alligators, they start to associate people with food and that’s when accidents happen.”
Chances are you live near some body of water in the Lowcountry, and the best bet for keeping gators out is a sturdy wooden fence.
Zalabak says, “They are excellent diggers and pretty impressive climbers as well. If you have a chain link fence they can scale that pretty easily.”
Even though humans are not a desired food source for alligators, our pets are. So be sure to be cautious with your dogs around lakes and ponds, especially around dawn and dusk when alligators hunt
South Carolina Aquarium Herpetologist Josh Zalabak says, “I think people are afraid of bats mostly because of movies and vampire bats, which actually aren’t even found in South Carolina. They fly and they’re kind of darty and that’s a little frightening for people I think.”
But don’t worry, out of the 14 bat species found in our state, none of them are out for your blood. The only creatures that need to be afraid are insects.
Zalabak says, “They all eat entirely insects. They are going to keep those bugs down that might be eating your plants if you have a garden, so they are extremely beneficial in that way. They are extremely beneficial to the agriculture in South Carolina because they are eating a lot of those harmful insects.”
And those bugs that are after your blood, like mosquitoes? Bats take care of them too.
Zalabak says, “Bats can eat hundreds of mosquitoes in an hour, so for that reason they are great to have around.”
He says another fear surrounding bats is rabies, and the myth that all bats carry the disease.
Zalabak says, “It’s only a very small percentage of bats that carry rabies, just call a wildlife removal expert and they will come take care of it. You don’t want to handle a bat. I know people sometimes have their cats bring them inside, your cat is probably vaccinated against rabies so your cat will be fine, but you certainly do not want to be handling any bats.”
Bats mostly live in wooded areas, but may try to make themselves at home in your attic, so make sure it is sealed up well.
South Carolina Aquarium Herpetologist Josh Zalabak says, “People think that it’s weird that they slither around without legs. Some of them move really fast, I think that scares people. And I think it is that they think all snakes are venomous, which is not the case.”
In fact, out of 37 snake species in the palmetto state, only six are venomous.
Zalabak says they are pretty easy to distinguish from the non-venomous snakes.
He says, “All of them have a triangular shaped head. If you see that on a snake in South Carolina, it is probably venomous and you’ll want to avoid it.”
And those non-venomous snakes are actually doing your yard a service.
Zalabak says, “A lot of snakes main diet is rodents, so they are controlling a lot of disease by eating rodents. Also you don’t want mice in your house anyway, so you want a snake around because its going to keep mice out of your crawl space, out of your attic, they’re really beneficial in that way.”
This is why he says your motto should not be “see snake, kill snake”.
He says, “As long as you leave them alone they’re not going to bother you, they’re not going to chase you, and it’s really easy to avoid a snake if you see one.”
If you happen to see a venomous snake in your yard, herpetologists recommend you call an animal removal service. They say the majority of snake bites happen when people are attempting to kill a snake in their yard, so your best bet is to leave it to the pros.