ARKADELPHIA, Ark.- At one point alligators were on the threatened or endangered species list. During that time populations were restocked here in parts of Arkansas. That was several decades ago and now folks say they are abundant in the Natural state.
They play a part in ecosystem roles and are a top predator in aquatic habitats throughout parts of Arkansas. Sometimes you may not even be aware of their presence.
“Alligators often times will float with just the head above the surface of the water, and the eyes and the tip of the snout,” says Kelly Irwin Arkansas Game & Fish Herpetologist. “They don’t present a high profile.”
In fact, Irwin says the static alligator population in Arkansas is only between 2000-3000, a fraction of the million alligators that Florida estimates.
Some folks in Clark county aren’t so sure those numbers are accurate.
“We see a bunch of them around here,” says Justin Rogers, who lives in Arkadelphia. “We see more and more of them every year, seems like.”
Blake Bell came up close and personal with one at the edge of his backyard.
“I see this big, long, dark thing laying there and I thought… well is that a tree or is that a limb?”
He discovered an 8 ft. alligator on the other side of his back fence at the edge of the woods.
“I couldn’t figure out why is it here,” says Bell. “I live on really a small mountain.”
Game & Fish came out and relocated the gator to Clear Lake in Arkadelphia, a place known to have other alligators. They are also frequently seen in ditches on the side of the road and live in the city’s sewer ponds.
“Apparently there’s so many that are here that they’re climbing mountains and ending up in people’s yards,” says Bell.
Bell believes like some of the other species that have migrated from other states, alligators are staking a bigger claim on Arkansas. Irwin says it’s a matter of perception.
“Today’s social media some things can become over inflated based on one person’s posting,” says Irwin.
“When you’re that close to where these things originate from they’re going to be here.,” says Bell. “They don’t know where the state line is and they don’t stop at the state line.”
Game and Fish says habitat availability plays a large role in how much alligator populations can increase. They say it’s possible there could be some expansion, but not to any great degree.
Irwin says the two most abundant places in Arkansas for alligators are Millwood and Arkansas Post.