An alligator that paid a surprise visit to a Carteret County business was safely captured Thursday afternoon after first grabbing the attention of curious customers.
James Pryor of Jonesboro, Ark., stopped by Redfearn’s Nursery in Cedar Point to pick up flowers he and his wife had picked out the previous day.
They’ll be heading home soon after visiting family in the area and will take home photos of the alligator, a sight he said they don’t see at home.
“And that’s not a little one either. We got a real treat,” Pryor said of their unexpected chance to see an alligator up close.
The alligator, estimated to be about 8-feet long and about 200 pounds, was discovered as Redfearn’s Nursery opened for business for the day.
Judy Redfearn said Ray Gomez of Three Amigos Landscaping came up on the alligator while getting ready for a job.
“Ray was out picking up products for a job and thought he saw a concrete statue laying on the ground. After taking a closer look, he saw it was a live alligator,” she said.
Carteret County Animal Control and local law enforcement officers kept customers at a safe distance until biologists with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission could get there to capture the alligator and take him to be released in another location.
For several hours, the alligator stayed put in the shade under a table in the nursery’s retail garden area, which is located at the front of the business that sits along N.C. 24 in Cedar Point.
Robbie Norville, regional supervising biologist with N.C. Wildlife Resources, said that with coastal waters all around, including the streams and creeks around Redfearns, which is not far from Bogue Sound, the alligator could have come from any direction.
Norville said the alligator was likely migrating from a feeding area to a winter den and got disoriented inside the nursery property.
“He probably got inside the fence and got disoriented,” he said.
Norville said alligators are more visible during the summer while they are out looking for “easy foods” such as minnows and crabs in crab pots. While they don’t hibernate, he said that their metabolism slows in winter months and they will burrow under the ground or take cover in places such as fallen trees.
Norville and regional WRC biologist Jon Shaw captured the alligator with assistance from the animal control officers on hand and planned to release the alligator into headwaters of the White Oak River.
After using a long pole to get a noose about the alligator’s neck, they were able to get the fighting alligator under control and cover his eyes with a towel so that Norville could approach and straddle the alligator while they taped his jaw shut.
The gator was then carried safely to a waiting WRC truck.
Harry Redfearn, who has retired from the family business now operated by his son, said he’s never seen an alligator come up into the nursery property.
“I’ve never seen anything like this. I’m not sure why he’s up here so far away from the water,” he said.
Whatever the reason, it added excitement to the morning.
The alligator’s capture brought a morning of excitement to a close.
“Everyone say good-bye to the gator,” said Harry Redfearn as the alligator was loaded into the truck.