NEW HANOVER COUNTY — An unexpected visitor crashed a vacant house and took a county building inspector by surprise this week.
On Tuesday morning, New Hanover County code enforcement official Dean Brown was visiting a house under construction on Carolina Beach Road for what he thought was an average day on the job. When he entered the structure and reached the attic area via a set of stairs, he noticed what he thought was a fake alligator.
“Because there wasn’t much light available, he used a flashlight to see and noticed the alligator, thinking it was not real,” county spokesperson Alex Riley explained. “After a second look, the animal opened its eye and Mr. Brown realized it was alive.”
According to Riley, Brown then left the attic and called his supervisor, who phoned animal control to safely remove the 8-foot alligator.
“While it is unclear exactly how the alligator got there, it is believed a door was left open over the weekend and the animal walked in and climbed the stairs to the top floor of the house,” Riley said.
The building is being constructed in the Echo Farms development, bordering Bernard Creek, which dumps into the Cape Fear River. Alligators prefer brackish waters, so sightings and interactions are common in the Bernard Creek watershed.
No one was injured in the incident and the animal has been relocated away from the residences. Riley said the gator was safely released back into the wild.
Brown did not complete the building inspection that day as a result of the incident.
Riley added, as far as the county is aware, it’s the first time an alligator has been found in a building by staff.
The last time an alligator was reported making its way to the front door of a residence was in 2019. The Wilmington Police Department wrangled the 6-foot reptile away from a home on Oleander Drive.
At the time, WPD partnered with Animal Control and N.C. Wildlife Management to apprehend the gator and return it to its natural habitat.
During the same year, an alligator was caught on camera strolling near McRae Street, just under the busy Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway overpass. WPD had to temporarily close the road while awaiting N.C. Wildlife Management’s arrival. The gator managed to meander back into Smith Creek before additional staff arrived.
Swamps, rivers, retention ponds and tidal creeks in North Carolina coastal areas often house gators. Though sometimes they can be caught elsewhere for a little salt air.
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.
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