SHALIMAR — Folks living on the water’s edge are used to seeing all kinds of critters.
But recent sightings of a gator — estimated to be about 8 feet long — have everyone talking. The gator, if it is the same one, was seen near a dock along Meigs Drive on Sunday, June 19.
This past Sunday, a gator of similar size surprised people gathered near the Shalimar Yacht Basin.
“First I saw it, I thought it can’t be an alligator out there,” said Gary Combs, who has been mayor of the small town for 20 years. “Sure enough, it was.
“There’s kids in the water all the time around here,” he added.
Combs got a shot of the animal cruising along the surface of the water. Ryan Davis dropped his GoPro camera on a stick in the water and got underwater videos that have been widely shared on social media.
Brad Gable, a town commissioner, was with Davis at the time.
“It was up in very shallow water,” he said.
The gator seems to have been traveling back and forth between the yacht basin and the Shalimar Bridge over the past few days.
Although some have speculated that recent heavy rains have washed gators into salt or brackish waters, Graham Northup, curator of fish and reptiles at the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park, says other factors are more likely.
It’s mating season and smaller male gators — like the ones seen recently in local waters — may have been forced out of their preferred territories by more dominant males.
“A lot of it is males moving around, looking for females or looking for new territory,” he said.
He said that unlike crocodiles, alligators can’t live for long periods of time in salt or brackish waters without serious health problems.
“Give these animals their space,” he said, adding that the gators will likely move back into fresh water unless someone starts feeding them.