Kayakers on Lake Wylie near Copperhead Island boat docks were surprised by a visitor spotted on a log earlier this week.
James and Christine Thomas of Lake Wylie and 13-year-old twins Brandon and Chandler were paddling about 1 p.m. Aug. 3 when they saw an alligator lounging on a log on the water.
“One of my twins had just jumped in the water to swim and gotten back on,” said Christine Thomas. “So needless to say we stayed in our kayaks. It definitely freaked us out.”
But first, Thomas said. they tried getting photos before the gator jumped off the log and swam toward shore.
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“We just watched,” she said. “But we stayed away from it.”
After paddling to other coves they returned to see the gator still there.
“It was still in the same cove farther back,” Thomas said. “He must live back there.”
Having lived in Lake Wylie for 11 years, Thomas said she’s heard rumors about alligators in the lake.
“I don’t want anything to happen to the alligator, but I certainly don’t want him on the lake,” she said.
Although the American alligator is native to North Carolina, it is not native this far inland. Rupert Medford, N.C Wildlife Resource Commission Dist. 6 biologist, said he doesn’t expect the alligator to survive through winter.
“It’s likely that little alligator is probably going to die here,” said Medford, adding he doesn’t expect it to grow much before winter. “If it’s as cold as last winter, he almost certainly won’t make it.”
Medford learned of the gator, estimated to be about 20 inches long, about two months ago when an angler contacted him with photos.
“I spent time trying to catch it, but thought it was either caught or had moved,” Medford said.
The state biologist said he went with and without the angler looking for the gator, “but I never laid eyes on it.”
Medford said it’s likely someone released the gator into Lake Wylie. In the past, he said, 6- to 8-foot gators have been sighted in Lake Wylie and other bodies of water where alligators don’t normally live.
“We believe that’s the size when they were put in there,” Medford said. “For the most part, if they’re they, people do detect them.”
Medford said alligator bites are rare, and typically the concern is protecting small pets.
“It’s not dangerous,” said Medford, who isn’t planning to continue the search for it.
He recommends people ignore it.
“We don’t want people feeding it,” Medford said.
He also urges anglers to move to another spot.
“He’s responded to fishing lures as if interested,” Medford said. “It’s small but can have a nasty little bite.”
If the gator was caught, Medford said, the commission would work with zoos to place it, or euthanize it because moving it to a different location could harm local populations.
In 2009, three 4-foot-long alligators were sighted near Elks Park Campground in Rock Hill, near Lake Wylie Dam. The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources said then the gators were likely illegally dumped since they aren’t native to the area.
According to The Herald and Lake Wylie Pilot archives, DNR officers nabbed an 8-foot alligator in August 2002 on Lake Wylie. DNR officials searched for the animal after residents reported multiple sightings.
In 2000, officers found a gator in the Crowders Creek area of Wylie and in 1999, Catawba Nuclear Station employees spotted a 5- to 7-foot alligator lurking in a nearby lagoon.
If the alligator is presenting a threat to humans, in North Carolina, call N.C. Wildlife at 919-707-0010; in South Carolina, call 800-922-5431.