Alligator inhabits Duck Lake, caution advised

  • Published
  • By Amanda Creel
  • 78 ABW/PA
Monday afternoon Bob Sargent was surprised to find a five-foot alligator, wading in Duck Lake.

Mr. Sargent, the natural resources manager for the Environmental Management Division at Robins, had visited the lake several times during the last few weeks hoping to spot the alligator, which had been reported by a Lakeside housing resident, Army Maj. Marty Butts, Army Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System group executive officer. However, the alligator had always taken cover during Mr. Sargent's visits.

It was Major Butts' children who first noticed the alligator while fishing on Duck Lake just behind their home.

"They said they saw it swim by, but I didn't believe them. I thought they had seen a turtle or something," the major said. "I have been here for almost three years and I had heard people say they had seen alligators in the base lakes, but I would have never thought there would be one in Duck Lake."

He said it was probably another week before he realized his children were right, when the five-foot alligator showed up again and gave his two dogs a scare.

Major Butts said he had let his two dogs out to get some exercise running around the lake when he noticed the alligator following them around the lake.

"The alligator stopped about 15 feet away from us in the water and just stared. It was really brave. It was like it was in the lunge position," he said.

After spotting the alligator Monday, Mr. Sargent raced back to his office and returned to the lake equipped with a fishing pole, tremble hook, rubber bands to seal its mouth and some alligator handcuffs, or duct tape.

By the time Mr. Sargent and his reinforcements from the Environmental Management team arrived, the alligator had once again gone into hiding.

Mr. Sargent said it's common for alligators to be spotted in the summer around the base, but that the alligators are not permitted to live in any of the base lakes.

"On any given day," Mr. Sargent said, "you can find six or seven alligators on base."

Mr. Sargent said any alligators found at the base lakes are removed and the Department of Natural Resources is consulted to determine if the alligator should be relocated or disposed of. Many times the choice is made to dispose of the animals because once they have been exposed to humans, there is always a fear when they are relocated they will come in contact with humans again and possibly attack them, he said.

He said it is important for base residents and employees to realize it is never safe to approach or feed an alligator. There is also a federal law prohibiting the feeding or harassing of alligators, he said.

"When they are afraid of people they won't come up to them, but when people feed them they can get bold," Mr. Sargent said. "By feeding the alligators, people are turning wild animals into dependent animals."

The majority of the alligators are found in base ponds and drainage ditches on the northeast side of the base near the airfield and most are about two years old and measure about two-feet long. Though there are some larger alligators residing on base, most of them are in areas where they are fenced in, such as at retention pond No. 5 on Beale Drive.

He said for many people it is a matter of curiosity when it comes to some of the young alligators, who are typically spotted on base.

"With a little animal like that it is not so frightening, but with a five or six-footer it could be dangerous," Mr. Sargent said. "Even at five feet, they are a lot stronger than a human."

Though the risk of an alligator attack may be remote, Mr. Sargent said it's important to be cautious.

If an alligator is spotted in one of the base lakes, call the Environmental Management Division at 926-9645.