11-foot gator ‘King Arthur’ seen out and about

The Beaufort Gazette - - Local - BY LISA WIL­SON lwil­son@is­land­packet.com

Al­li­ga­tors are look­ing for a place to call home for the win­ter, and that in­cludes the 11-foot be­he­moth seen out for a stroll Wed­nes­day on Fripp Is­land.

Nat­u­ral­ist Jes­sica Miller, re­cre­ation direc­tor at Fripp Is­land Golf and Beach Re­sort, shared video on Face­book of King Arthur, as the al­li­ga­tor is known, cross­ing Ocean Creek Boule­vard — no, he didn’t use the cross­walk — and glid­ing into a pond on the Ocean Creek Golf Course.

The video clearly shows a satel­lite trans­mit­ter on the back of King Arthur’s neck. The gator was tagged by Clem­son Univer­sity re­searchers in April, Miller said.

The re­searchers also are track­ing six al­li­ga­tors in Sea Pines on Hil­ton Head Is­land.

The re­searchers told The Is­land Packet in the spring that the study aims to help peo­ple bet­ter un­der­stand the rep­tiles so they can bet­ter man­age com­mu­ni­ties where al­li­ga­tors live.

When the re­searchers fit­ted King Arthur with the GPS de­vice, he was mea­sured at just un­der 11 feet, Miller said in the cap­tion that ac­com­pa­nied her video.

“At this size, he is at least 35 years old and has likely lived on Fripp his whole life,” Miller posted.

The video had been viewed at least 19,000 times and had al­most 125 com­ments, many from peo­ple who had seen the mas­sive gator be­fore or who hoped to see him.

“He reigns over Fripp,” one per­son posted.

“I will have night­mares tonight!” re­sponded an­other.

“Dang! That guy is huge! That is right be­side my house! You can see our house in the re­flec­tion on the pond,” wrote one per­son.

When the days get shorter, al­li­ga­tors know to start pre­par­ing for win­ter, An­drew Grosse, al­li­ga­tor pro­gram bi­ol­o­gist for the South Carolina Depart­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources, told The Is­land Packet last De­cem­ber.

Ga­tors will more of­ten be seen on the banks of ponds and lakes try­ing to soak up the sun’s warmth dur­ing au­tumn, Grosse told the news­pa­per.

“When it starts to feel more like fall ... they slow down with their feed­ing or stop al­to­gether and kind of pre­pare for win­ter,” he said. “Their pri­mary goals be­come warm­ing up when they can, find­ing a place to spend the win­ter, and maybe feed­ing a lit­tle bit, but they start to lose in­ter­est at that point.”

Fripp Is­land is known as the home of a num­ber of large al­li­ga­tors.

Ex­perts, like Miller, urge res­i­dents and vis­i­tors to watch ga­tors from a dis­tance and never feed them.

It’s il­le­gal to feed or ha­rass al­li­ga­tors in South Carolina, ac­cord­ing to state law. Vi­o­la­tors could face fines or up to 30 days in jail.

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