Untamed Lowcountry

‘He just broke my lasso’: Brave Hilton Head security guard removes angry gator from pool

Watch: Hilton Head Plantation security removes thrashing alligator from home’s pool

A Hilton Head Plantation security officer calmly removed a thrashing alligator from a resident's pool on Memorial Day. The gator was relocated to a lagoon inside the S.C. gated community.
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A Hilton Head Plantation security officer calmly removed a thrashing alligator from a resident's pool on Memorial Day. The gator was relocated to a lagoon inside the S.C. gated community.

A Hilton Head Island security officer had a wild Memorial Day when a 7-foot gator she was removing from a swimming pool unleashed its massive strength and broke loose from a lasso.

Michael Collins called Hilton Head Plantation security around 11 a.m. Monday when he saw the large creature lurking in the pool behind his house in the Hickory Forest neighborhood. Collins was with his two dogs when he saw the gator “on top of the water and staring” straight at them.

Lt. Vanessa Green, a veteran Hilton Head Plantation security officer, arrived on scene minutes later and used a 4-foot pole attached to a metal lasso to grab a hold of the alligator.

Collins filmed the one-minute encounter as Green slowly and carefully inched the lasso around the alligator’s neck while it was still underwater.

This, naturally, infuriated the large reptile.

“Whoa,” Collins said as the alligator scrambled to escape the lasso, making large waves throughout the swimming pool.

The gator then thrashed its head and twirled its torso and tail to escape the lasso as the security officer held on tight to the other end of the pole.

The alligator then clinched its dinosaur jaws to the pole, while spinning rapidly for several seconds before the lasso finally snapped.

“I need assistance. He just broke my lasso,” Green said into her radio as the gator sunk below the surface of the pool.

Luckily, Green is highly trained in alligator wrangling, Hilton Head Plantation General Manager Peter Kristian told The Island Packet on Tuesday morning.

In fact, she’s responded to 81 service calls calls for alligators in Hilton Head Plantation between 2010 and 2018.

“It’s a high number,” she told the Packet on Monday. “But I’ve never had one break (a lasso).”

“I was just glad it broke in the pool,” Green said with a laugh.

An additional officer arrived on scene with more equipment and a stronger pole to wrangle the gator. The alligator resisted the lasso, again, and tried with all its might to break free.

This time, another officer used a second lasso, and Green was able to lug the alligator out of the pool, pulling its massive body up the in-ground pool steps.

“What’s the best way out of here?” Green asked — calmly — while the alligator growled next to her at the other end of the pole.

The officers then escorted the alligator with a lasso down to a lagoon down the road.

“He was worn out by the time we released him,” Green said.

The 7-foot alligator was calm before Lt. Vanessa Green released it into a lagoon. Photo by Vanessa Green.

Green said he didn’t go straight into the pond after the officers removed the lasso.

“He just kind of stood there for a minute,” Green said. “We went back later to check on him and he was in the lagoon.”

The whole process took the officers about an hour, Collins said. He said he’s thankful for the hard work from the brave security officers.

“They did a great job and I’m very thankful for their help on a holiday,” he said. “Luckily no one, including the gator, was injured.”

Alligator removal

Alligators found to be non-aggressive can be moved by SCDNR, or a contractor with a permit, to a nearby lagoon or out of a property owner’s garage and back where they came from.

According to Morgan Hart, biologist with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources alligator program, Hilton Head Plantation has a current permit and set of tags they can use to relocate alligators on their property as long as they are staying within the bounds of their property.

Green said Hilton Head homeowners should always be cautious of possible wildlife in the Lowcountry.

“Before homeowners think about jumping in the pool on extremely hot days, always check to make sure there are no alligators or venomous snakes,” she said. “We have had calls for both more than once during the summertime.”

Here is a look at the lasso the alligator busted on Memorial Day, 2019 in Hilton Head Plantation. Vanessa Green photo.

Lowcountry alligators are in prime mating season in May, which means they are often seen outside of their lagoons as their movement patterns change.

“We see them all over the place during mating season, but that doesn’t mean they are aggressive,” Green said.

DNR gets between 1,300 and 1,500 complaints about alligators every year, according to SCDNR.

“Most of these are from tourists who aren’t educated about alligators,” David Lucas, SCDNR spokesperson previously told the Packet. “They will call us just when they see an alligator in a pond.”

Only about 300 of those alligators are determined to be a nuisance animals and most of them are killed, Lucas previously said. Officers consider the size, level of aggression and distance the alligator traveled, among other factors, when determining whether the alligator should be killed.

SCDNR officials urge the public to keep its distance from alligators and never to feed them.

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Mandy Matney is an award-winning journalist and self-proclaimed shark enthusiast from Kansas. She worked for newspapers in Missouri and Illinois before she realized Midwestern winters are horrible, then moved to Hilton Head in 2016. She is the breaking news editor at the Island Packet.