Neighbors, homeowners react to 10-foot gator found in Murrells Inlet yard

Updated: May. 1, 2019 at 7:21 PM EDT
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MURRELLS INLET, SC (WMBF) – Seeing a 10 foot, 4 inch alligator in between two homes in a Murrells Inlet neighborhood was the last thing neighbors expected to see Tuesday afternoon.

Andrea Ballard said her dog has been barking around lunchtime, but she didn’t know why.

"My dog was driving us, driving me nuts trying to bark at something at lunch time,” said Ballard, “A guy down the street rang my doorbell frantically and I’m like, ‘OK that’s not normal’”

John Davin was that neighbor. He was on his way to the pool in his truck.

"I got in my car driving down the road to the pool and I just caught out of the corner of my eye something was there that didn't belong there,” said Davin.

“He’s huge,” Ballard said, “He literally just sat until the Snake Chasers came out and started trying to get him wrangled and he’s like, ‘Whoa, wait a minute,’ and he’s trying to flip around. They’re trying to run him back to the backyard because there’s a lot more space and away from the kids."

Neighbors said they called law enforcement and South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. The Snake Chaser, a company that specializes in reptile and wildlife removal, also came to help.

"You have to be very hyper focused too. If you make a mistake it could mean a limb or your life,” said Snake Chase Russell Cavender.

He said the alligator was likely on his way to find a mate.

"They become very dominant. They want to mate with all the females in that pond. So any smaller alligators they will chase them away. Literally kill them if they stay,” he said.

“His dating routine was interrupted,” said Davin.

The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources said mating season for alligators typically runs until early summer.

Alligators live in the Palmetto State year round but when temperatures get warmer, they’re more likely to be out and about and seen by the public, according to SCDNR.

Cavender said the gator was released into the wild away from people. He said now is the time of year that snakes, alligators and other wildlife will be out and about so if you run into any, it’s best to call professionals.

“Mating season for fur baring animals is in the winter time. Mating season for reptiles is in the spring time. You’re going to see a lot of these,” said Cavender.

Cavender said its important to be aware of their surroundings and not take getting rid of an animal or wildlife into their own hands if they don’t know what they’re doing.

SCDNR also responded to the Murrells Inlet neighborhood. A representative with SCDNR said the alligator was in an area where it could not easily leave without coming across people and crossing the road so it was deemed a nuisance and removed from the property.

“Nuisance alligator agents are under contract with the state to humanly euthanize nuisance alligators unless specifically directed otherwise by the state,” SCDNR stated. “There are many reasons that nuisance alligators are not relocated, including that they have a strong homing instinct and will cross roads and populated areas to return to their original location.”

The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources said they will respond to emergencies for an alligator of any size. “[SCDNR] will only issue non-emergency nuisance permits for alligators over four-feet long. Alligators under four-feet long are juveniles and generally not a threat to people or pets as long as they are left alone,” the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources said.

If you come across an alligator, SCDNR said you should never touch or feed them and that they’re generally afraid of humans. An alligator could lose its natural fear of humans if its been fed, but SCDNR said if its found in a place where alligators are typically known to be, it’s a considered a nuisance but not an emergency.

“In that case, it is the responsibility of the homeowners, homeowners association or land management group to call our nuisance alligator coordinator for that county and request a nuisance alligator permit. Once issued a permit, they can hire a professional to remove that specific alligator,” said SCDNR.

The easiest and fastest way to reach SCDNR is to call the radio room in Columbia at 1-800-922-5431.

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