Wild encounter: New Hanover County inspector finds alligator in attic of a house

Wild encounter: New Hanover County inspector finds alligator in attic of a house
Published: Mar. 9, 2023 at 11:23 AM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Getting a house inspected before buying it can normally uncover any structural issues or code violations, but in this case, that included finding a live alligator in the attic.

Dean Brown is a code enforcement official for New Hanover County — he was inspecting a home in Echo Farms this week.

“I go in, start looking around, it’s three stories to get to the attic. And when I walk up to the attic, I didn’t think nothing of it, I turned the corner, I’m looking around at the work, and I noticed what I thought was a fake, stuffed gator of some sort. And then I started continuing doing my job, then I looked back at him and realized he was moving and breathing,” Brown said. “So, I chose to back away and take some pictures and call a co-worker and let him know. We made sure that the place was safe and evacuated people, there were workers that were there on site, asked them to leave for their safety. And then we called sure for animal control.”

Brown said there isn’t much light in the attic, so that’s why he wasn’t so sure at first.

“So, that’s why I second-guessed what he was because he didn’t really move at first. He was kind of asleep, I guess. But once I shined my flashlight on his head, his eyes started to open, and he gave me a wink and let me know ‘I’m alive’.”

Brown has been inspecting homes for a little over a year and he said he’s never seen anything like this in an attic. This is his third encounter with a gator in his lifetime, but the first one indoors.

How the gator got in the attic is anyone’s guess, but Brown said he thinks a door was left open to the house over the weekend, and the gator snuck in and then climbed the built-in stairs to the attic.

“The builder arrived Monday morning and realized there was mud in the house, wasn’t sure where it was from, but he did call people in to clean and repaint some areas. Then, work continued for a day and a half until I arrived and discovered it,” Brown said.

“Nobody would believe me. You know, I made phone calls. I tell people around me; nobody would believe me. And one person did get around to go and look when he realized I was not joking. He was able to communicate with the rest of the workers on site to leave.”

Brown started his career in heating and air back in 1995 but recently started working as a code inspector for New Hanover County.

“You’ll see nothing major, I have seen squirrels, of course, small rodents. Squirrels, probably the biggest ones I’ve seen in the attic. I have seen a gator that was in the yard, kind of sunbathing. Back in the 90s. You know, I really didn’t think much of that. I have run into several snakes. You know, it’s the nature of, of doing construction and working, going under homes or going in attics, you’re liable to run into something. Whether they’re alive or deceased. It happens.”

Animal control said the gator was about eight feet long.

“Since then, I’ve been very cautious a peek in and look around,” he added. “It was an experience that I’ll never forget, not be able to share for a very long time. And I’m just thankful that no one got hurt.”