Alligator Caught in Surf Stuns Texas Beachgoers

by Sean Griffin
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(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

A huge alligator found itself in salty waters and surprised plenty of beachgoers on a popular stretch at South Padre Island, Texas.

A 7.5 foot alligator worked its way into the salty waters and was eventually rescued by wildlife officials.

Beachgoers started posting photos and videos of the alligator to social media. They altered Texas Parks and Wildlife Department officials to the potential threat. The alligator was struggling in the repetitive waves. Rescuers needed to relocate the alligator to safety.

“[Because] there were a lot of Facebook videos surfacing, we were anticipating getting a call,” said Jacob Reinbolt, a herpetologist at the alligator sanctuary the SPI Birding and Nature Center. “Once we saw the video surfacing of this gator on the beach, we know they don’t belong there. When they have to fight the surf like that, that’s exhausting for them.”

The alligator was eventually captured Thursday. It was brought to a wildlife refuge Thursday under the care of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Alligator handlers from the sanctuary also assisted with the gator.

Now, there are wild alligators around South Padre Island. However, they rarely wade into the surf-side areas. Gators prefer freshwater or brackish water, Reinbolt said. They typically venture into saltwater only for short periods of time to find food.

“So if you asked me, the most likely scenario here is he went out looking for food and kind of got swept into the surf,” Reinbolt said, explaining the gator was in need of rescue by the time they caught and relocated it to safety.

Alligator Expert Weighs in on Texas Beach Gator

“He had been fighting the waves for who knows how long before someone even spotted him. By the time we got him he was exhausted,” Reinbolt said. “So it was definitely a rescue, we returned them deep into Laguna Atascosa, where he has access to fresh water. He’s gonna be much better off.”

The Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge lies on the mainland of Cameron County. It’s about 10 miles to the northwest of where the gator was caught.

The alligator sanctuary only keeps nuisance animals. They offer an alternative to euthanizing alligators. These gators, who have been fed by humans, now create a danger to the public and are kept here.

The alligator was then released at the wildlife refuge instead of placed at the alligator sanctuary. That’s because they had determined it not to be a nuisance animal.

“A nuisance alligator is going to approach a human being,” Reinbolt said. “Wild alligators don’t want anything to do with humans. They see us as predators, not prey. So 90% of the time, they see a person, they’re running away as fast as they can. In this case, he was doing his best to avoid people trying to stay away.”

When asked how one catches a gator, Reinbolt gave a quick response.

“Quick hands,” Reinbolt said. He also explained they used a lasso threaded through a PVC pole to bring out the gator from the surf.

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