'Gator watch' continues at Hope Mills Lake

HOPE MILLS After an alligator was first spotted in the lake's swimming area Wednesday morning, officials closed the lake to swimmers and advised residents to stay away.

Despite the warnings, however, the sharp toothed reptile is attracting large crowds. Some people are even getting into boats to see the gator up close.

"I don't have anything else to do," Fayetteville resident Ann Hayward said. "Nothing but watch for this gator. My husband has been retired out the military and I am a housewife and I'm going to sit right here until I see him."

"We'd heard about the alligator, so my kids and I decided to come out just to see if we could get a look at it," Fayetteville resident Drena Wiggins said. "He came up there we could see the top of him."

On Thursday, a NC Wildlife Resources Commission officer said a state biologist saw visitors throwing sticks at the gator, which is a no-no.

"They will try to keep their distance, but once you try to provoke them or in any way antagonize them, they are a wild animal," NC Wildlife Resources Commission Captain Brent Spivey said.

When the alligator was first spotted, officials put up signs telling visitors not to taunt or feed it, because doing so violates a state law that designates the reptile as a protected species.

"Gators have a natural fear of humans and if you start feeding them, throwing them things or taunting them, they start to lose that fear," Spivey said.

Officials say they have not been able to tell if the animal is male or female.

"That I don't know until I get a little closer, and I don't really want to get close enough to find out," Spivey said. Officials believe construction around wetlands near the lake may have forced the gator to its new found spot.

Animal control officers are at the lake to keep an eye on the reptile and they say they hope the gator leaves on its own. They say they'll wait to see before they make plans to capture and remove it from the lake.

No swimming is allowed until ithe gator is gone and authorities are making extra partols in case of an emergency.

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