NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - Business as usual came to a halt at Watermark Marina of Wilmington Monday, because an unexpected visitor showed up below the parking lot.
Two large, glassy eyes stared up from a drainage grate.
"One of the biggest alligators I've ever seen in my life," said boater Ken Ward. "How he got in there - Lord only knows."
The alligator appeared to have made its way from the nearby Cape Fear River, up through the drainage system and into the marina. That's where it hit a dead end and couldn't manage to climb out or turn around.
Watermark public relations official Michelle Hackman worried the animal would die if no one helped it escape from the drain.
She called local wildlife expert and gator wrangler, Jimmy English. The 72-year-old said he wouldn't be surprised if the alligator was as old as he was, and extremely ferocious.
"He'll get a hold of you and he'll shake you just like a dog shakin' a rag--beat you to death on the ground, one that size," said English.
English has captured gators for half a century. It took some rope tied to the back of a pickup truck and the strength of four men to drag the alligator out of the drain.
A little maneuvering from the alligator wranglers helped get the animal into a huge black pipe that was loaded onto English's truck.
From there, it'll be a long journey away from the Cape Fear River and back into the wild.
English said he and his son James will have to take the alligator more than 50 miles away to another river system. Otherwise, he'll find his way back to the same spot.
The alligator's length was estimated at about eleven feet.
"We're right on the river," said Hackman. "There's great access, but along with being along the Cape Fear River, you are going to have encounters with wildlife."
This encounter had a happy ending to a story those involved will remember for a long time.