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Let alligators live in peace

Ask residents to list the most apparent signs of Denton County’s dynamic growth and some would mention rapidly rising rooftops that accompany residential and commercial development.

Others might discuss longer lines of vehicles at intersections and the need to keep expanding the highway systems.

Optimists might point to an expanding menu of dining options and an improved selection of shopping outlets.

Pessimists would complain about lengthening wait times at those restaurants and difficulty in finding a good parking place near all those busy shopping venues.

Sit down for coffee and one of those “I can remember when” conversations, and someone is likely to lament the dwindling supply of open space — another result of the county’s rapid development.

The area’s newer arrivals may now be “homesteading” on the very tracts of former prairie land where you once picked wildflowers or pitched a tent for a camping excursion.

Some longtime residents could be feeling a little cramped by the county’s burgeoning population, and judging by recent reports from some visitors to Lewisville Lake, alligators may be among them.

Although several reports of alligator sightings have surfaced lately, many who live near the lake or visit on a regular basis say they’ve never spied one of the creatures.

Most of us would find a first-hand encounter with an alligator to be unnerving, but as Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Capt. Cliff Swofford told us, we really shouldn’t be surprised — alligators have been in area lakes for years.

“They are indigenous here,” he said recently, adding that reports and sightings of alligators come and go. In addition to Lewisville Lake, recent sightings have been reported at Lake Worth and Eagle Mountain Lake.

Some residents theorize that recent sightings may be related to growth. Humans have continued to encroach on the habitat of all wild creatures, forcing them to leave areas where they once could stay hidden.

Swofford said the reptiles typically keep to themselves and that people really have nothing to fear from them, although he cautioned against feeding the alligators.

It’s illegal to shoot an alligator unless someone’s life is in danger. The penalty can range from a Class C misdemeanor with a fine of up to $500 and no jail time to a Class A misdemeanor, which involves a higher fine and jail time.

Thanks to Denton County’s growth and our encroachment on wildlife habitat, the alligator may soon be one of the few true natives left in these parts and deserves to be protected.

We hope that anyone who happens to see an alligator at one of our area lakes will resist the urge to harm it.

In our view, if we all use a little common sense, everyone should be able to peacefully co-exist. Alligators are probably more afraid of us than we are of them, and with good reason.