DO NOT TOUCH

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Man photographed touching alligator turns himself in

By Mindy Lucas

A man posing with an alligator on Fripp Island, and appearing to lift the massive animal’s tail, turned himself in recently to authorities after a post circulating on social media asked for help identifying him.

The post, shared by Fripp Island Golf and Beach Resort on Saturday, March 27, included the man and what appeared to be a friend snapping his photo.

“Fripp Island Resort would like to remind all of our residents, guests, and visitors that Fripp is a wildlife habitat. Harassment, enticement, or feeding of wildlife is both illegal and dangerous. We are sharing this incident in hopes that the violators will be found, not to encourage this behavior,” the post stated.

Officials with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) opened an investigation after it was notified of the incident the week of March 22, according to the department’s Public Information Coordinator David Lucas.

It is illegal to harass wildlife in South Carolina. In addition, there are specific laws and fines relating to the harassment of alligators, Lucas said, meant to deter people from doing exactly what the man was seen doing in the photograph – putting himself and possibly another in danger.

Alligators may appear to move slowly but can actually cover a lot of ground very quickly and should always be considered dangerous, Lucas said.

The mature alligator pictured with the men was at least 10 feet long, he said.

In 2018, a 45-year-old woman was killed in Sea Pines on Hilton Head Island. In 2020, a 58-year-old Johns Island woman was killed in an alligator attack on Kiawah Island in Charleston.

The incident was the 3rd such fatality involving an alligator attack in South Carolina since the state started keeping records in 1976, according to DNR.

It’s understandable that people are fascinated by alligators, Lucas said, but it’s imperative that if they’re going to take a photo, they keep their distance.

“And people should never attempt to approach an alligator,” he said.

The man, whose name has not been released, turned himself in on Saturday, March 27, Lucas said. He was charged in the incident and will have to appear in court.