FORT FISHER — As summer heats up, apparently, the gators are also headed to the beach.
A few weeks after a family captured video of an alligator near Masonboro Island off Wrightsville Beach, a local resident arrived in the Fort Fisher area, north of Kure Beach, around 11 a.m. Sunday to find a 4- or 5-foot alligator hanging out in the surf.
“We parked and it was right there,” said Brandie Anderson, who captured photos of the reptile.
Anderson said the gator swam away but reappeared farther down the beach near marker 44.
“The ranger said to leave it alone and did nothing with it,” Anderson said.
Fort Fisher park ranger Kip Futch said, though not common, from time to time during the warmer months it’s not completely unusual for alligators to show up on the shore.
“The beach certainly isn’t an alligator’s preferred habitat,” he said.
Primarily fresh water animals, gators can survive in saltwater for a few hours. They travel to the shore often to feed and to balance their salt intake (they lack salt-secreting glands).
Futch said most gators found on the beach tend to be small, likely young animals looking for places to live.
Alligators are part of everyday life on Pleasure Island, which includes Carolina and Kure beaches, and Fort Fisher. They’re normally found in the marshy areas and the center of the sound — though they’ve also been spotted around docks near the canal.
“I assume they find their way on the beach either by swimming out the mouth of the river into the ocean or swimming into the marsh along the back side of the island from the river, then crossing the dunes,” Futch said.
The North Carolina Wildlife Commission suggests never to approach a gator when encountered. It’s illegal to poach, harm, harass or intentionally feed alligators in the state as well.
“Even small ones can be dangerous and NC Wildlife requires special training and permits to move them,” Futch said. “Technically, no one on staff here has the proper permit to move them, but wildlife has been looking into allowing non-NCWRC people to obtain them.”
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