At a press conference late Wednesday night, Drew Minx of Jacksonville said he brought his nine-month-old husky Simba to the Mill Creek Green on the corner of Henderson Drive and River Street Tuesday night about 5:30 p.m. Minx said he regularly brings the dog there for exercise.
Minx said Simba was on a leash playing fetch. Minx said he removed the leash to allow the dog to get water at the nearby creek.
Minx said a “behemoth of a gator came out of nowhere,” took Simba under the water and by the time Minx got to the edge of the creek, Simba was gone. He could see the alligator in a death roll.
The water went still, Minx said.
He called his wife, Amy Matz, who was getting the couple’s other husky ready to come to the area to play. Matz then called 911, Onslow County Animal Control and the N.C. Wildlife Commission.
JPD and N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission officials went to the area Wednesday morning at about 11 a.m. to look for the alligator. Within about 30 minutes, they found an alligator, about 12 feet in length, on the other side of the Brooks S. Gruber Bridge from where the attack happened.
Jon Shaw, district wildlife biologist with N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, said there is no way to be 100-percent sure the animal they found attacked the dog; however, the one they found had intestines wrapped around its head and hanging from its mouth.
A sniper with JPD fired three shots at the gator at intervals between noon and 1:30 p.m. The alligator sunk into the water and remained submerged.
The body resurfaced about 3 p.m., according to Jacksonville Department of Public Safety Spokesman Beth Purcell, at which time N.C. Wildlife and JPD officers pulled it out of the water.
Onslow County officials have asked to put the body on display.
“(The) county is going to be able to be permitted to have the body processed,” said Lisa Whitman-Grice, Museum Division Head for Onslow County. “We're going to send the body to a taxidermist, and it's going to be used in the Environmental Education Center and Library in Sneads Ferry.”
The alligator was transferred Wednesday afternoon to Eastern Carolina Taxidermy, which also is processing a black bear that will be in the education center, Whitman-Grice said. The bear was hit by a vehicle several months ago. Both will be part of a display to show the native flora and fauna to Onslow County, she said.
Shaw said the gator was most likely male about 40 years old. He added alligators in North Carolina rarely grow longer than 12 feet.
The decision to kill the animal was based on its size and its recent aggressive behavior, Shaw said.
“Trapping an alligator of that size is dangerous in itself,” he said.
Relocating it would have been most likely futile because alligators have excellent honing skills and it would have most likely returned to the spot, Shaw said.
Nordstrom said the area the gator was in — close to homes, a public park and shopping centers — also contributed to the kill decision.
Shaw said he believed the alligator was badly wounded after the first shot, but they fired more than one to be sure.
City officials are asking the public to not to feed wild animals — including birds, especially ducks, and alligators — in the city parks. The feeding encourages them to remain in area, attracting predators such as alligators, officials said.
Alligators feed at dawn and dusk and are native to the New River and its creeks. City officials also cautioned the community to keep pets on leashes per city law and to keep pets and children away from the water.
“Our message to the citizens is, don’t feed alligators, don’t feed the ducks in this area that feed the alligators,” Nordstrom said. “Just be mindful of your animals, of yourself, and your family; and sometimes nature and humans combine.”
Matz said she thinks there should be some type of signs in the area where the attack happened to warn of alligators.
“I’m glad it’s gone and taken care of so no other dogs or children can get hurt by the gator,” Matz said.
Contact Daily News reporter Katie Hansen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Daily News reporter Amanda Hickey contributed to this story.