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Little alligator loose in Lake Lanier

Officials: Reptile poses no harm to people, pets

POSTED: August 8, 2008 5:01 a.m.
DARCIE HOLCOMB/Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper

An alligator has been spotted in Lake Lanier in the Flat Creek area.

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A small alligator recently spotted in Lake Lanier has been causing such a stir, you’d think someone had seen the Loch Ness monster.

Ken Riddleberger, regional game management supervisor for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources in Gainesville, said the DNR has been flooded with media inquiries since word leaked out about the little gator.

The animal apparently has been living in the Flat Creek area of the lake at least since mid-July. It was spotted from a boat owned by Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, which does routine patrols of the lake to test water quality.

Riverkeeper director Sally Bethea said Darcie Holcomb, the organization’s director of headwaters conservation in Gainesville, snapped a photo of the reptile curled up under someone’s dock. Holcomb is out of town until Wednesday.

Riddleberger said DNR rangers have not yet laid eyes on the animal, but since there is a photograph from a credible source, he has no reason to doubt that it is real.

It’s not the first time that someone has seen an alligator in Lanier. Riddleberger said every now and then someone releases one here after capturing or obtaining it somewhere else.

"I don’t see how it could have come here naturally," he said. "It had to be physically transported."

Whoever brought it here, he said, has broken two laws.

"It’s illegal to own an alligator in Georgia. It’s also illegal to release one into the wild."

The gator is estimated to be no more than 3 feet long, not much bigger than an iguana. Riddleberger said the reptile poses no threat to humans, pets or wildlife.

"His snout is only 3 inches long, so he can’t get his jaws around anything very big," he said. "There’s no public safety concern."

The concern is more for the alligator itself. "It’s likely that it wouldn’t survive the winter," said Riddleberger.

"We’re not in prime habitat, so he’s not going to prosper."

There are plenty of fish for the gator to eat, and it has no natural predators in Lanier. But Riddleberger said the gator would have to go into a dormant state to keep from freezing in the winter. It also runs the risk of getting cut up by a boat propeller.

Riddleberger said the DNR "is not going to waste taxpayer money" putting on a big search for the alligator, since it isn’t creating any problems.

"But we may put a trap out," he said. "If we catch him, we’ll probably tote him back to South Georgia, where most likely he’s from."



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