July 14, 2014

12-foot alligator walks out of Hilton Head surf

One of Hilton Head Island's beaches had an unusual visitor Monday morning: a 12-foot alligator.

The big gator -- estimated to be 45 years old and weighing 800 pounds by one of the wranglers called to move it -- walked out of the surf on South Beach near mile marker 10 about 8 a.m. Monday, Shore Beach Service director Mike Wagner said.

A bystander notified a member of the beach patrol, who contacted Joe Maffo of Critter Management to remove the alligator, Wagner said.

At 9 a.m., Maffo and Critter Management employee Xavier Anderson arrived to find the gator still in the surf, so they looped a rope around its jaw and pulled it out.

Maffo said it took 40 minutes to restrain the alligator with ropes, tape and a snare so it could be safely moved. Maffo said he was exhausted after the job and had to sit down on the beach to recover.

"He was a pretty big boy," Maffo said.

While Maffo and Anderson tied up the alligator, a crowd formed. Wagner said about 100 people stopped to watch, but Maffo said many more were there, some filming the event.

Some onlookers even offered to help Maffo put the alligator in the back of the beach-patrol trailer brought onto the sand to help move the reptile, he said. The trailer was used to carry the gator to Maffo's truck in a nearby parking lot, he said.

Maffo said the alligator will be destroyed under S.C. Department of Natural Resources regulations. However, he said he planned to talk to DNR about possibly relocating the large alligator, which he suspected was returning home at the end of mating season.

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