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Posted by W von Papinešu on May 04, 2003 at 07:45:44:
FAYETTEVILLE OBSERVER (N Carolina) 03 May 03 Sunbathing alligator jams highway traffic (Venita Jenkins)
Lumberton: An 8-foot alligator caused a traffic jam Thursday when it decided to sunbathe on N.C. 211.
People lined the side of the highway to catch a peek, while others slowed their vehicles to a crawl to catch a glimpse of the gator.
Sgt. Craig Ferguson with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission said the alligator strayed from its natural habitat. He believes it was living in a swamp near N.C. 211.
"This one decided to go out on the road and do some sunbathing,'' he said. "They like to lay on the pavement for warmth.''
Ferguson began receiving calls about the reptile about noon, but he was not able to respond until 2:30 p.m., he said.
He found the alligator slightly injured. It had been hit by a vehicle, Ferguson said. The alligator crawled back to the side of the road. Onlookers tried to drag it back to the highway to Wort Mill Pond, which is across the street from where it was spotted.
"Some people made the situation worse because they harassed the animal,'' Ferguson said. "Alligators are generally not a nuisance to humans until humans interact with them. The worst thing you can do is feed them. They will associate the human smell with food.''
Alligators are on the state threatened-species list, and people could be fined for harming them. Ferguson said their numbers appear to be increasing.
"For someone who hasn't seen one, yes, it's a sight to see,'' Ferguson said. "But there are better ways to see one than off the highway.''
The Highway Patrol directed traffic while Wildlife officers attempted to move the alligator.
"It became a safety hazard once people began pulling over on the road,'' he said.
The officers used a strap to tow the reptile 20 feet into the woods, Ferguson said. Alligators are only relocated if they become a nuisance to humans.
"It's not a nuisance when it is living in its natural habitat,'' he said.