7-foot alligator spotted in Tennessee is latest of 'several confirmed sightings,' wildlife agency says

If you live in western Tennessee, be on the lookout: A 7-foot alligator was recently spotted in the southwestern part of the state and is the latest of “several confirmed sightings,” wildlife officials warned.

Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) personnel recently caught footage of the massive reptile at Wolf River in Feyette County. While alligators have been slowly migrating north for the past five years, the video is “really the first good footage of this,” Amy Spencer, the information and education coordinator for region 1 of TWRA, told Fox News.

Spencer said that the gators are expanding into Tennessee from southern border states, such as Mississippi, which has a “pretty good [alligator] population” along the Mississippi/Tennessee border, she said.

“This has been a natural progression,” she said, adding that local residents couldn’t stop talking about a different alligator that was spotted in Hardin County last summer.

Spencer said alligators are most likely migrating north because the winters in Tennessee are relatively mild. During the few snaps of extreme cold the gators “go in to a hibernation-like state called brumation,” she said. (In fact, according to TWRA, alligators “can withstand periods of ice by sticking their snout out of the water before it freezes which allows them to continue breathing”).

The reptiles are “opportunistic feeders,” the agency said, adding that they typically feed on fish, turtles, snakes and frogs, among other types of smaller animals that live in water. But sometimes, according to TWRA, the gators will feed on larger animals “such as possums, raccoons and deer.”

Anyone who comes across a gator is urged to leave them alone. Spencer said the agency has no plans to remove the reptiles and cannot stop their progression into Tennessee.

“The chances of being seriously injured [by an alligator] is super rare. That being said, she added, “just stay away from them -- they’re more scared of you than you are of them.”

Additionally, it is against the law to harass or hunt alligators because they are a protected species, she said. And while there’s a chance the gators could “move on” to other parts of Tennessee or even other states, “we need to learn to live with them,” Spencer said.