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.
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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.