11-foot gator frightens Brunswick County families
Residents spent $600 to have alligator moved 30 miles away
BOILING SPRING LAKES, N.C. (WECT) - Carol Woollery had a very unpleasant surprise when she went to run an errand with her daughter last week. As they pulled out of their gravel driveway in Boiling Spring Lakes, they noticed an extremely large alligator hanging out in their next door neighbor’s yard.
“He was so huge. We thought it was fake. My daughter was scared to pass him. But I had somewhere to go. I had somewhere to be. And I was like, ‘Well, you’ve got to go past the alligator.’ And when she drove past the alligator a couple of feet at a blink of an eye the alligator spins around so fast and opened his mouth up. It was like a movie. Like Lake Placid,” Carol Woollery recalled.
Woollery called her neighbor to warn her an 11-foot gator was hanging out behind her husband’s car. Then she called North Carolina Wildlife and the police. Woolery said Wildlife came out the next day and monitored the alligator who’d taken up residence in the pond on her property, but they did not remove him.
“He said, ‘The alligator, they’re shy. And they will not bother [you]. Give them a couple of days, a few days, and he will move on. Because the pond is not big enough for food,’” Woollery said of learning Wildlife had no plans to remove the gator. She said she eventually convinced the officer to give her a permit so she could have a private removal service relocate the gator, but she was dismayed to learn moving a gator of that size would cost her $600. She ultimately decided she had no choice but to hire help.
“I mean, seeing him in action. If we walked past there and he jumped out, we didn’t stand a chance,” Woollery said, emphasizing her concern for her children and pets. “They would have been a snack for him. We have five cats out here. We have a bird that we rescued. We love animals. We have a house full of animals. But that [gator] was a dinosaur. Really, that was a dinosaur.”
Woollery has lived in her Boiling Spring Lakes home for four years. Tara Lax, the neighbor who lives in the house where Woollery first spotted the gator hanging out, has called the area home for 13 years. Neither woman has ever seen a gator anywhere near that size on their property.
“We stayed on our front porch. So we had plenty of room and we were right by the front door. So if he decided to make a turn or anything like that, we were very quick on going back into the house, but it was just a real quick snap. Okay, now I have what I need. That way we could send it off because we were trying to get somebody to come help us,” Lax said of taking the pictures of the gator that initially caught the attention of WECT.
Clayton Ludwick, a Master Officer with North Carolina Wildlife, says he gets calls about nuisance gators on a regular basis and recently removed three gators in a single day.
“Every case is a case by case basis. So sometimes, if it’s an emergency, whether an alligator is underneath somebody’s car, in their garage, or in a walkway, then an officer will be the one to come out and remove that animal,” Ludwick explained. “But if it’s more of like, ‘I can see him in the distance and he could be a threat. That’s, going to be like, ‘If you want to pay to have him removed, you can, but most cases that the alligator will just stay there. Because there’s going to be an alligator in almost every pond. And if it’s not that alligator, if it’s removed, another alligator will take its place.”
“In a larger alligator like [the one at Lax’s home], the information will be forwarded to our alligator biologist, and he handles every alligator. That’s whether it’s a nuisance, or just an alligator living in their habitat and people are concerned. He makes that decision whether the alligator has to be moved, or left alone,” Ludwick added.
Wildlife experts say that gators over eight feet in length can be a safety risk to people and pets, especially if people have been feeding them.
“When people start feeding them, they become dependent on people to feed them. So every time they see a human, whether it’s a child or an adult, they think food,” Ludwick said. “Keep a close eye on your kids. Obviously, don’t go swimming in the pond in southeastern North Carolina. And that with your dogs, pets, different things like that, if you’re fishing, be aware that there may be a large alligator or a smaller alligator in that pond and to keep your kids and pets away from those particular areas.”
Lax and Woollery are relieved that the threat in their back yard is gone, for now. But they were distressed it cost them $600 to have the alligator removed.
“We don’t want to stress the alligator out. I mean, that I understand that. I absolutely understand not wanting to stress a gator out,” Lax said of the Wildlife officers reluctance to move the large gator from her yard. “But at the same time, they’re not taking into consideration the fact that we’re stressed out, just trying to walk out to our vehicles. Having our children come back and forth up and down the road.”
Because alligators are classified as a threatened species, there are strict rules prohibiting hunting or killing them, and they can only be removed by a Wildlife officer or by a licensed Nuisance Alligator Agent with a permit. Because so many people have moved to the state in recent years, many of whom are unfamiliar with alligators, NC Wildlife makes strides to educate residents on how to peacefully coexist with alligators in their area.
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