Editor’s note: We caught up with the most interesting people — and animals — we wrote about in 2018. Learn what’s new with each this week.
This summer, a Hilton Head alligator named Charlie became world-famous after he was caught on camera eating a shark.
The video of the 7-foot alligator proudly chomping down on a bonnethead shark while swimming through Skull Creek quickly went international after The Island Packet’s story in July, said Kristen Poillon, who took the video.
“It still cracks me up how many people were into it,” Poillon said. “ I was approached by news stations from all over the U.S., National Geographic and most of the major news networks like CBS and NBC.
Poillon, a server at Hudson’s Seafood House on the Docks, said her co-workers “affectionately” named the alligator Charlie after seeing him cruising around the dock so often.
“We did see him quite a bit this summer following his social media sensation,” Poillon said.
But don’t worry. The fame hasn’t gone to Charlie’s head.
“He has just been up to the average alligator moves. ... cruising through our feedings, sunning himself and leisurely swims.“
Charlie’s fame has been the talk of Hudson’s patrons as well.
“I had so many (customers) from around the country bring up the video and the shark,” she said. “Customers from all over the country would mention (Charlie) while sitting on the deck, hoping to catch a glimpse of the celebrity.”
Charlie’s famous video brought up a big debate: are alligators actually higher than sharks on the Lowcountry food chain?
The two feared predators typically don’t cross paths because alligators lack saltwater glands, which makes it difficult for them to survive in coastal waters, according to Smithsonian’s National Zoo.
However, a recent study showed that alligators and sharks could be crossing paths more often now since American alligators are gaining tolerance for saltwater and showing up on beaches more frequently, according to a study published in Current Biology magazine.
“It’s not an outlier or short-term blip,” Duke ecologist Brian Silliman said in the study about gators appearing in saltwater. “It’s the old norm, the way it used to be before we pushed these species onto their last legs in hard-to-reach refuges. Now, they are returning.”