Pets and Animals

NC families worried about alligator in neighborhood pond

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - For the past week, a six-foot alligator has been living in a neighborhood pond just feet away from family homes with children playing in front yards.

The retention pond is in the Johnson Farm neighborhood in the Cambridge Heights community located in Silver Lake near Wilmington.

People who live there are worried about the safety of kids because the alligator approaches people, and the pond is in front of a bus stop.

"We've got to get something done. He has shown more aggression,” said one neighbor, who did not want to be named. “He killed a goose today.”

Residents said the alligator swims up to people who get close to the pond, has preyed on ducks, other birds, and fish, and has rested in driveways.

Neighbors told WECT they have placed multiple calls to the NC Wildlife Resources Commission asking for help.

Chris Kent, a North Carolina Wildlife biologist, recommends you call NCWRC if you are worried.

It is illegal for the public to kill, harm or harass an alligator in North Carolina because they are a federally protected species, said Kent.

“The biggest issue I see is people feeding them, and that’s what creates an unsafe situation,” said Kent. “If people feed alligators, they quickly lose their fear of people and will approach them and swim up to them.”

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Usually, an alligator sticks around for a couple weeks, and then moves on to another pond or creek, said Kent.

“I have received around eight to 10 calls from folks in New Hanover County over the past five weeks related to alligators showing up in retention ponds,” Kent wrote in an email. “As for removals…I think there have been two emergency removals due to an alligator being in a location that required immediate attention.”

Kent said a few alligators have been relocated over the past month after showing up in a pond near a busy street or business.

“Not every alligator needs to be relocated,” said Kent, who emphasized the importance of trying to coexist with alligators. “These animals are a native species.”

Private wildlife removal services can be a source of help for a neighborhood that continues to worry if the state wildlife team does not take action to relocate the alligator.

Jimmy English, owner of Wildlife Removal Service in Wilmington, can relocate alligators because of special state permits he possesses.

But there are a series of steps that residents must take in coordination with English to get legal permission for an alligator removal.

“You have to get a permit to move the alligator. The permit does not cost anything. I will be listed on the permit as the man getting the gator,” said English. “After I catch an alligator, we have two pre-approved by the Wildlife Resource Commission release sites. One is at Holly Shelter; one is in the Green Swamp over in Brunswick County.”

English has a large plastic pipe which he uses to transport the alligator.

He said alligators are prevalent in Southeastern North Carolina.

“There are a lot of alligators in the Wilmington area,” said English, who added the number of removal calls has increased over time. “But there are more people in Wilmington for the alligators to bother than there ever was before.”

English said growth and development in the Wilmington-area is also a part of why more people are calling him for alligator relocation.

“Before you can do anything about development any more, you’ve got to build a retention pond,” said English. “You’ve got to have a canal going from the retention pond into the outflow, which goes to the rivers, where the gators are. The gators go up the river, up the canals and the retention ponds in people’s backyards and this is what creates the problem.”

English said he understands why people are concerned about alligators living in their neighborhood ponds.

“I’m not going to tell you to coexist with a 10-foot alligator," English said. "If he’s wanting to catch your dog or your youngin, I’m not going to try and tell you to co-exist with that."

Copyright 2018 WECT. All rights reserved.

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