TAR HEEL — Motorists passing through the town of Tar Heel on Hwy. 87 on Wednesday morning may have thought they’d driven into a scene straight out of “Swamp People” with the sighting of a large alligator in a roadside ditch between Tar Heel Middle School and Smithfield Packing Company.
According to initial reports, the alligator measured about 9 feet in length, but Tom Padgett, a district wildlife biologist with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission who investigated the incident, said the alligate measured nearly 12 feet in length.
“It was a big one,” Padgett said. “And I’d say it weighed between 700 and 800 pounds.”
Witnesses who called the Bladen Journal originally claimed the alligator had been run over by a vehicle, but padgett said it had not been.
“Oh no, he’s very much alive and well,” he said.
The alligator was first reported at about 8:30 a.m.
Padgett said it’s unusual to have an alligator of this size to wander away from water.
“He probably came up from the Cape Fear River bottomlands because of all the rain we’ve had,” Padgett said. “We don’t get many. Usually we’ll see alligators between 2 feet and seven feet — but not anything close to this size.”
He added that the alligator was captured and being transported to a designated gamelands in Brunswick County “out in the middle of nowhere.”