13-foot gator yanked from Hilton Head lake

astice@islandpacket.comMay 21, 2012 

Spectators watch as Joe Maffo of Critter Management looks for a 13-foot alligator in the lake at Jarvis Creek Park on Hilton Head Island. Maffo was trying to hook the gator with a fishing rod, but it was too far away.

JAY KARR/THE ISLAND PACKET AND BEAUFORT GAZETTE

  • The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control is warning residents of Beaufort and Hampton counties to avoid caring for wild animals and to vaccinate pets because of confirmed cases of rabies.

    Three animals in Beaufort County have been confirmed as rabid this year, including a fox that bit a Sun City Hilton Head woman April 21, according to DHEC. A baby raccoon recently tested positive for rabies in Hampton County, the first confirmed case in that county in more than a year.

    State law requires pets to be vaccinated regularly against rabies.

    If you think you have been exposed to the virus through a bite, scratch or the saliva of a possibly infected animal, immediately wash the wound with soap and water, then get medical attention and report the incident to DHEC.

    Information: Go to 1.usa.gov/LbkhbN or contact your local DHEC office online at 1.usa.gov/Lvxim8.

A 13-foot gator was captured from a lake in a Hilton Head Island park Monday evening after dragging wranglers in a boat for more than an hour.

The alligator had slipped away earlier in the afternoon in Jarvis Creek Park, but members of Critter Management, on orders from the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, snagged it with baited hooks on fishing lines. It weighed at least 1,000 pounds, said Joe Maffo of Critter Management.

The crew had spent several hours Sunday and Monday afternoons trying to catch the gator after it snatched a soccer ball kicked into the water during a party for youth soccer teams.

Maffo said he temporarily snared the gator Sunday. It spit out the soccer ball but dove underwater. It freed itself from hooks, while Maffo and his crew followed it in a boat. The crew tried to find the gator again but gave up when it got dark.

When Critter Management arrived Monday afternoon, the gator could be spotted from the public dock, where a crowd of onlookers shouted out sightings. It wasn't long, however, before the gator, which can stay underwater for several hours, disappeared.

After about two hours of scouring the water, the trappers decided to put out bait on the edge of the lake.

Maffo said the gator hasn't been fed by humans and isn't aggressive. But nuisance laws say it must be removed from the lake and killed because of its size, he said.

"I typically don't respond to gators with a soccer ball, because they can take it and chew on it at their leisure," he said. "But we can't have this big of a gator in a city park with all these children around."

The soccer ball has been returned to the players who lost it, teeth marks and all.

Trevor Garbett of the Lower Coastal Sports Academy said members of the organization's soccer teams, ages 5 to 15, were picnicking at the park Saturday. During a game of kids versus adults, the ball was kicked into the water and began to drift.

"Unfortunately, our big friend snatched it up before I got to it," Garbett said. "I think he just wanted to fetch."

The ball, Garbett said, still has air in it.

Follow reporter Allison Stice at twitter.com/LCBlotter.

Related content:

13-foot gator evades capture at Jarvis Creek Park, May 20, 2012\

VIDEO: Caddie fends off alligator during RBC Heritage round 1, April 13, 2012

Warm winter prompts Beaufort County alligators to appear early, March 6, 2012 Gator stuck in Hilton Head storm drain free at last, June 24, 2011

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