SOUTHEASTERN NORTH CAROLINA (WECT) - Seeing alligators isn’t that uncommon for people living in southeastern North Carolina.
Finding one underneath someone's front porch is rare, and no doubt shocking, but that's what happened at a residence on Sam Potts Highway in Bolton on Wednesday.
While Kathy Brown, a teacher and school bus driver, was at school, she got a call from her son-in-law.
"He said, 'Hey, I just got home from work and there's an alligator under the porch,'" Brown said in a phone interview Thursday. "I worked the rest of the day. I got home and there are several residents of Bolton here in our front yard. The game warden was here. Nobody was doing anything. They're just all kind of talking."
The reason nobody took action right away is because the gator was too big for one person to handle. While the wildlife officer waited on backup to arrive from Fayetteville, the gator gave everybody watching a clear indication of its size and strength.
Brown’s daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter live next door to Brown and her husband, and Brown said the area under the porch at her daughter’s home is open, with about a 36-inch rise and no underpinning. According to Brown, when the wildlife officers began the process of removing the gator, “he flopped and he was so big, he moved the trailer up. Through the floor, you could feel the trailer shake.”
One of the wildlife workers told Brown the gator was 10-feet long. It wasn’t the only one seen in Bolton this week.
Brown said she and her husband took photos of another alligator spotted on the side of a ditch along Blacksmith Road a few nights before the 10-footer was found at her daughter's residence.
In a phone interview Thursday, Bolton Mayor Shawn Maynor said a resident called him about the alligator under the porch. The mayor then phoned the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, which sent an officer to the home to remove the animal.
Brown said there have been three gator sightings near homes in Bolton this week. WECT has received other emails and Facebook messages this week about close encounters with alligators in Bolton, Wilmington and Ocean Isle Beach.
NC Wildlife Officer Scott Pritchard said it’s difficult to pin down a specific reason for why alligators have been making their way into human territory but he has a hunch.
“Why alligators end up in particular situations like they do — for instance, underneath the house in Bolton — I don’t really have a clear answer for why that is,” Pritchard said Friday. “I would speculate those gators are moving from Point A to Point B, whether that’s for finding more suitable habitat or seeking out, during breeding season, a potential mate.”
Mating season, warmer temperatures and more watery habitat created in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence are all possible reasons for gator sightings, Pritchard said. Once NC Wildlife is called to remove an alligator, he said the animal gets checked out and is then transported to its natural habitat.
In the Bolton case, that meant the Green Swamp, where Pritchard said the potential for gators to come into contact with humans is limited.
Brown said she would expect to see alligators near Lake Waccamaw and Green Swamp but the Bolton sightings are most unusual to her.
“I’ve lived in Bolton for 20 years,” she said. “I’ve never seen an alligator (before this week).”
If and when humans come into contact with an alligator, Pritchard advised a hands off approach, within reason.
“It’s hard to do but leave the alligator alone,” he said. "Give it time. It’s gonna move on its own. It may take days. It might take weeks.
“That’s a hard pill to swallow when you’ve got a 10-foot alligator under your house. I get it. In that situation, after a few days, yeah, that’s probably something we need to come handle.”