Jeff Shepard figures he knows the reason why a large alligator found Wednesday evening outside of the Magnolia Court Motel on Houston Road decided to leave the nearby swamp: It was likely hungry.
Shepard, who is contracted by the state’s Department of Natural Resources to wrangle such critters when they get loose in public places, said despite the gator’s 13-foot frame, it was extremely malnourished.
“He weighed about 450 pounds,” Shepard said.
“He was probably 300 pounds underweight. He was in the worst shape of any gator I’ve ever seen.”
Shepard said the alligator is probably between 25 and 30 years old.
Though the gator was reported initially to be 14 feet long, Shepard said he measured it twice, and it’s actually about 13 feet.
Shepard said the pocket of swamp near Ga. 247 where the gator was apparently living is small.
He speculated the gator had eaten all the food in that area and that the water quality isn’t very good there, leading to the animal’s poor health.
Shepard and his crew from Shepard’s Wildlife Services safely subdued the gator and took him to a swamp in Laurens County, which he said would have a much larger food supply.
However hungry the alligator was, he apparently wasn’t tempted to go after any of the crowd from the motel or passing motorists who were checking him out.
“He was just sitting there by the fence,” said Linda Patterson, manager of the Magnolia Court Motel off Houston Road.
“All of the (people gathered) wanted to know what he was doing out of the swamp.”
Jim Johnson, director of Macon Animal Control, said there had been three sightings of an alligator in the area over the past several months.
On one occasion, a gator on Ga. 247 was pushed back into the swamp with a firehose, he said.
Johnson said he was happy to turn over Wednesday’s operation to Shepard and his crew.
“They have to pay some people some more money to catch gators,” he said with a chuckle.
Johnson said the wranglers used long poles with nooses on the end to subdue the large reptile.
One of the wranglers then jumped on the gator’s back and helped secure its legs, he said.
Johnson said he didn’t consider trying to force the alligator back into the nearby swamp, citing public safety concerns.
“Somebody could get hurt,” said Johnson, who added that alligator sightings are fairly uncommon in the city of Macon. “We’re glad to have him out.”
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.