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KAUFMAN, Texas Multiple alligator sightings have forced the shutdown of a city park in East Texas.

Four gators were reported near the playground area at Kaufman City Lakes Park off Highway 34.

This is a pre-emptive safety measure, but officials said no one should be scared.

Every year, the state game warden takes five to 10 calls, but only one alligator has been caught in the last three years. It was 11 feet long.

That may not be the most reassuring thing to hear, but it's true: Texas like Louisiana and Florida is home to alligators.

I'm not too worried, said Michael Branden, but it's kind of funny if there is alligators out here.

After gator prints caked deep in the mud were spotted outside the Kaufman park playground, Public Works Director Richard Underwood took immediate action.

You know, something is out there; the best thing to do is shut down until we can figure out what we have in there, he said.

Eyewitnesses reportedly spotted four alligators around the playground. There are also five mounds of dirt along the water bank and beside the dock where the gators were thought to be nesting.

State Game Warden Eric Minton has some simple advice for the curious: If you see a gator, leave it alone, and it will return the favor.

Don't feed the alligators; don't provoke them, Minton said. They need to be aware that this is a park where wild animals have freedom to roam, and they should conduct themselves in a way they can all be together.

The average alligator is six to 14 feet long. In Texas, there is no record of a person ever being killed by an alligator, although there have been 17 people injured in the last 15 or so years.

Kaufman is about 35 miles east of Dallas.

E-mail sgables@wfaa.com

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