“I thought it was a log,” said Jacob Waldrop, with Tradesman Co., who was building a new pier at Riverside Landing Monday morning. “I threw a rock at it and it moved. I thought, ‘that’s interesting’ and left it alone.”
Waldrop said he went to inform officials at Town Hall about the alligator.
“It looked about seven feet long,” he said.
Waldrop was not the only person to spy the reptile.
“I was driving by and saw the gator,” said Brandon Akers.
Akers said he drove down Bukes Lane, adjacent to the slough at Riverside Landing.
“The gator was about 20 feet away from me,” he said. “It looked like it was about eight feet long.”
Akers, who has lived in the area all his life, said it was the first time he had seen an alligator in Logan Martin Lake.
“I have heard a lot of wives’ tales, and heard several people say they’ve seen one,” he said. “My father-in-law saw a three-foot gator directly across the river (from Riverside Landing) about two years ago.”
Ronnie Scribner, who was riding with Akers when they saw the alligator, said he didn’t believe it at first.
“Then we saw it about 20 feet out from the bank,” he said.
Scribner said it was his first time to see an alligator in the lake as well.
Tim Alverson said a buddy of his called and told him about the alligator.
“I thought they were lying to me and I would come and it would be a toy or something,” he said. “I thought it was a practical joke until I saw it (the alligator).”
Bill Silvers said he spotted the alligator about three weeks ago.
“I was fishing with a friend early in the morning, and we saw what looked like a log moving against the current,” he said.
Silvers said he saw the “log” frequently during the past three weeks, moving slowly around the slough and resting near the bank.
“I didn’t report it because I didn’t think anyone would believe it,” he said.
Mayor Rusty Jessup said he had no idea where the alligator came from.
“There is no way this alligator was born and raised here,” he said.
Jessup said Riverside Landing is heavily used.
“If he (the gator) had been here for any length of time, someone would have seen him by now,” Jessup said.
Jessup said the Alabama Department of Conservation Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (formerly Game and Fish) officials came to Riverside Monday afternoon to assess the situation.
“We will set a limb line with chicken to catch it,” said Jerry Fincher, a conservation enforcement officer with the Alabama Department of Conservation Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries.
Fincher said the line would be monitored overnight and this morning.
“We are hoping to be successful tonight (Monday night)” he said. “Once we catch it, we will release it in a non-disclosed area away from the public.”
Fincher said he estimated the alligator was approximately six feet long.
“There have been sightings (of alligators) for years in this area, although it is rare to see them,” Riverside Police chief Rick Oliver said. “At their request (Alabama Department of Conservation Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries officials), we are asking people to cooperate and stay away until we get the alligator relocated to a safe area for it.
It is hard to catch it when the alligator is spooked by onlookers and children throwing rocks (into the water).”
“Alligators are more common than people around here think,” said St. Clair County Commission Chairman Stan Batemon, who worked as a game warden and supervisor for District 2 (which includes St. Clair County) for the Alabama Department of Conservation Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries.
Batemon said it is not uncommon to find an alligator in the Coosa River drainage area.
“I have had to catch them in private lakes in St. Clair County, and in other places along the Coosa River,” he said.
Batemon said most of the alligators he caught were 4-5 feet long, although sometimes they would find a larger alligator.
He said the alligators have a shorter growing season here, due to the cold weather in winter, and do not usually grow as large as they do further south.
“Over the last 20 years, the alligators have adapted fairly well to central and north Alabama,” he said. “I speculate they have learned to live in old beaver huts and old dug-out areas under the river bank. They crawl in there and, since they are cold-natured, their metabolism slows way down so they conserve energy without needing to feed (similar to hibernating). On a warm day, they crawl out and the sun warms them up.”
Batemon said alligators are opportunistic feeders, eating dead fish and other animals or live prey if they can catch it.
“They are not likely a danger to humans,” he said. “They are more likely a danger to a person’s pets. However, as with all wildlife, people should steer clear of it and give it a wide berth.”
Batemon said if you look at places in Florida and south Alabama where there are thousands of alligators, the residents and boaters don’t have much of a problem with the alligators, as far as the alligators being a danger to humans.
“I would like to emphasize caution, as with all wildlife (deer, bobcats, raccoons, birds, etc.),” he said. “This (alligator) is just another wildlife we have been blessed with.”