Parents of May River High School students were greeted by a 9-foot, 1-inch alligator near the school's drop-off line Tuesday morning.
A local, licensed alligator control agent that contracts with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources captured the gator from the Bluffton school and killed it, according to SC DNR spokesman David Lucas.
"(Euthanization) is the outcome in many – if not most – of these nuisance gator calls," Lucas wrote in a Wednesday email. That decision is made based on criteria, such as the animal's size and aggressiveness toward people or pets. The larger the gator, the more likely a control agent will be called in.
The most frequent methods for euthanizing an alligator are either a handgun or a bangstick — a shotgun shell is placed behind the base of the gator's skull and discharged directly into the animal's brain, Lucas said.
He was unsure which method was used on the May River gator, but said it was likely a handgun because alligator hunting guidelines say bangsticks should only be discharged underwater.
"That is one reason we work hard to drive home the message that people not feed or approach these animals and keep pets away from them," Lucas said. "If they get used to people or begin to view them as a food source, there is a strong likelihood that the gator will eventually end up having to be killed because of it. I’m not suggesting that was the case with this gator at the high school – I have no idea – but it is a frequent cause generally, particularly with gators in ponds where there’s lots of human activity around."
Additional police were present during drop-off because the animal was on the road at one point, according to a widely-shared post on the school's Facebook page. The post also incorrectly stated the gator was relocated to an area on Lady's Island.
"He wanted to celebrate Teacher Appreciation Day," one Facebook commenter wrote of the animal and Tuesday's nationwide celebration of Teacher Appreciation Day.
Another commenter wrote "#mayriversharksnotalligators," referring to the school's official mascot, the sharks.
This isn't the first gator to slither its way up to a Beaufort County school.
In October, a 7 1/2-foot alligator was found near Bluffton Elementary School. A parent who worked for K & K Wildlife Services of Bluffton came to the rescue and moved the animal several miles away.