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‘Gator’ just a big turtle at Lake Norman

Authorities scrambled Wednesday morning after residents and police officers spotted what they believed to be an alligator swimming in Lake Norman near Cornelius.

But it turned out to be another type of reptile – a turtle.

“We get some big turtles up here in the lake,” said Betsy Shores, spokeswoman for the Cornelius police. “And that’s what this turned out to be.”

Residents spotted the reptile shortly before 8 a.m. in a cove west of the Ramsey Creek Access Area. Police arrived a short time later and reported seeing the creature swimming about 30 yards offshore.

Cornelius police and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police lake patrol called state wildlife agents and then took boats into the lake for a closer look.

“They got close enough to realize it was a turtle,” Shores said.

She said it apparently was a snapping turtle, which can grow to nearly 2 feet in length.

Alligators are not native in this part of the Carolinas. Wildlife officials say their native population is confined to areas east of the fall line, roughly east of U.S. 1. But wildlife officials occasionally are called to retrieve alligators from area lakes, such as a large gator captured about seven years ago in a Lake Wylie cove in York County, S.C.

Those animals are thought to have been set free by private owners.

Lyttle: 704-358-6107; Twitter: @slyttle
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