Mike O’Neal was looking for fish while participating in a Clermont Bass Club tournament on Sunday. The Cleveland man and his fishing partner, Harold Grizzle, ended up finding something much more surprising near Don Carter State Park on the Chattahoochee River portion of Lake Lanier.
A juvenile alligator, about 2.5 feet long, popped its head out of the water and moved within about 5 feet of the boat and didn’t appear to be scared while staying there for a few minutes.
“It was just amazing to see an alligator on Lake Lanier,” O’Neal said.
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources said there isn’t any cause for alarm.
“It’s very small. It’s not doing any harm,” said Kevin Lowrey, a DNR wildlife biologist. “We’re aware of it, kind of monitoring it to see if it becomes more of a nuisance.”
Lowrey’s advice for anyone who comes across the gator is to not feed, harass or try to catch it.
He said it’s probably an aquarium alligator, a pet that someone got tired of and released.
O’Neal said he never felt in danger.
“I don’t think it would hurt anybody,” he said.
While Florida is more widely known for its alligator population, Lowrey said there are “plenty of alligators in Georgia,” mainly in reservoirs hotter than Lake Lanier. He said a gator in this area is “pretty uncommon.”
The colder winters in Georgia make it harder for alligators to survive here, according to Lowrey, though some larger ones are able to burrow and survive the colder months. The one spotted on Lake Lanier doesn’t meet that criteria.
O’Neal had heard of sightings of alligators on Lake Lanier, but now he has his own story.
“It’s kind of crazy,” O’Neal said