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GRANITE FALLS, NC (WBTV) - Another summer is upon us, and another alligator has been spotted in Lake Hickory. Last summer, an alligator just under four feet long was spotted on the Hickory side of the lake.
Now, an alligator has been seen on the Caldwell County side, more specifically, in the Gunpowder Creek section of the lake.
A man living in the area took some pictures of the reptile and wildlife officers who have seen them say it does not appear to be the same alligator that was spotted last year.
That alligator disappeared not long after the fourth of July and has not been seen since. If it had survived the winter, the officers are certain there would have been several sightings.
The latest alligator to be seen is from four to five feet in length, they think.
Should people be worried about it?
"No," said N.C. Wildlife Biologist Brad Howard. "The reptile is too small to pose a threat to humans and is actually more afraid of us than we are of him."
Wildlife officers don't plan to search for the alligator and remove him. They can't take him to a zoo because they can't be sure how it was raised or what, if any diseases it might carry that could affect other alligators at a zoo.
For the same reason, they would not try to relocate it.
Instead, they will leave it along and they advise the public to do the same. The officers will only get involved, they say, if the alligator gets into a situation where it poses a danger to the public.
For now, they say, it doesn't.
Alligators are not native to western North Carolina and are unlikely to survive when temperatures dip below freezing for any length of time, according to experts.
Howard thinks the ones that have been spotted in recent years in Lake Hickory were probably dumped there by people who had them as pets.
People should not try to raise alligators or wild animals as pets according to wildlife experts.
In cases like this, when the animal or reptile grows too big and is released into the wild, "it never ends well for the animal," Howard said.