MOSS POINT, MS (WLOX) - People all across the country are talking about the tragic alligator attack Monday night in Florida.
Mississippi has a large population of alligators, and experts say it's important to know the do's and don'ts when it comes to the reptiles.
Alligators are animals that many people like to see from a distance. But, being in South Mississippi may put many closer than they realize.
"Just because you don't see them doesn't mean they're not there," said alligator expert, Andy Riffle.
According to Riffle, there's no way to tell how many of the reptiles may be in a body of water - there could be one, there could be dozens. Either way, it's always important to play it safe.
The obvious tip would be to keep away from the animals. But just as important, Riffle says, is the golden rule: Do not feed alligators.
"When you feed the alligator you turn it into the most dangerous reptile you can find in the south," said Riffle.
Doing so can cause the animals to become reliant on humans as a food source. Alligators in the wild have a natural fear of humans, but feeding them breaks that fear.
"They have no fear coming up to any single person, whether it be a child or an adult. It doesn't matter, this alligator's going to come up to anybody looking for food," said Riffle.
Riffle says just like with any wild animal encounter, people should always think about safety and those around them first.