Untamed Lowcountry

12-foot Cypress Wetlands gator worries Port Royal councilwoman

Alligators at the Cypress Wetlands in Port Royal. Officials are considering removing a 12-foot alligator.
Alligators at the Cypress Wetlands in Port Royal. Officials are considering removing a 12-foot alligator.

Port Royal Councilwoman Mary Beth Gray-Heyward wants the town to move quickly to rid the Cypress Wetlands of a 12-foot alligator.

"A child is going to get attacked down there," she said during Wednesday's Town Council work session. "This is not something we want to play with."

The topic was brought up originally during the annual town council retreat in March, and town manager Van Willis said he was looking into the cost of fencing low-laying areas around the wetlands.

Most of the walkway around the wetlands, which was completed about a year ago, is elevated, lessening the chance of an alligator being close to people walking the path, Willis said.

That does little to ease Gray-Heyward's worries. Both visitors and children frequently walk through the area on their way to and from the Wardell Family YMCA.

"I'm concerned that the children walk down that way, and say they lean down and the alligator gets them," she said. Gray-Heyward said she isn't concerned about the smaller alligators, but wants the 12-footer gone.

Willis said experts told him the reptile will be destroyed if its removed from the wetlands.

Bob Bender of the Lowcountry Estuarium suggested if an alligator must be removed and killed, the town should look into taxidermy costs. The alligator could be stuffed and left at the wetlands as an attraction.

"I could see people coming from great distances to have the kids sitting on the back of these things in pictures or videos," he said.

Alligators are neither new or unexpected in the wetlands. In 2001, when plans to restore the area were discussed, Robert Folk of Folk Land Management Inc., Woodland and Wild-life Consultants, who was managing the project, said alligators were needed to counter the predators of the birds that live there.

Chris Marsh, executive director of Lowcountry Institute, said at the time the alligators would have a natural habitat in the middle of the wetlands, making encounters with people less likely.

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