TYLER, Texas (KETK) — Some East Texans are wondering why more alligators are being spotted after an 11-foot reptile was caught and removed from a lake in Lufkin on Memorial Day. Experts at the Caldwell Zoo say gators are native reptiles to East Texas and it’s not unusual to see them near our creeks and lakes.

“I was born and raised here and I’ve never seen one on Lake Tyler. I do remember when they found a 10-foot one in the city of Tyler,” said General Manager at Lakeside Grill and Marina, Tara Tyner.

Gators are usually seen in the quiet ends of the lakes, usually away from human activity. The gator found on Memorial day in Lufkin was close to a walking trail and did not appear to fear people. This has caused community concern as to why more sightings have been reported.

“Actually there in that Lufkin area in Angelina County, we have a hunting season in September for alligators, so that is one of the tools in our tool kit for managing alligator population is gator hunting and that occurs across East Texas as well,” said Texas Parks and Wildlife Alligator Program leader, Jonathan Warner.

Interacting with these reptiles can become a big problem for the community.

“Those that are keeping baby alligators and releasing them, it may happen, hopefully, it’s few and far between,” said Warner.

These actions are illegal in the State of Texas.

“In all likelihood, the alligator was approaching people or wasn’t swimming off when it was approached by people, so normally that is a pretty good clue that it’s been fed. That’s another big no when it comes to alligators. Once they begin to be fed by humans, they associate humans with their food source and so they lose their natural apprehension,” said Warner.

This isn’t the first incident here in East Texas where a gator was spotted near people. Last year, one of these reptiles had to be removed from a Jucy’s Tacos drive-thru in Henderson.  Experts say to just admire alligators from afar.

“They are not going to chase you down. But, if you’re in a body of water and you see a gator, the smart thing to do would be to get out and just kind of watch it. Probably report it to somebody like a local game warden. There’s no reason why we can’t co-exist peacefully with them,” said Supervisor of Reptiles at the Caldwell Zoo, William Garvin.

If you do run into an alligator while enjoying the outdoors, you can contact the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department by visiting their website here, or you can call the TPWD Alligator Program at 409-736-3625 or 1-800-792-1112.