FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – The alligator captured in the Trinity River in east Fort Worth Thursday might have been invisible to people because it was too blind to hide.READ MORE: US Supreme Court To Consider Controversial Texas Abortion Law
That was one observation of “Gator” Chris Stephens, a nuisance alligator wrangler brought in to catch the beast by Texas Parks and Wildlife.
He believes it’s likely the big gator floated past popular Panther Island on its way downstream. News of its presence drew mixed reactions from water lovers there.
“I mean, that’s freaky but I’m not too worried about it. I think we’ll be okay,” said Sydney Ellis, who along with friend Sam Streicher, say an alligator might not have kept them off their paddle boards. “Oh, I don’t know, I think we’ll be alright,” said Streicher adding, “And if there’s any concern we’ll just paddle back really fast.”
But kayaker, Jennifer Rios, laughingly claimed it would have made a difference. “Yes I probably wouldn’t have done this (kayaking), I was already anxious enough.”
Stephens spoke in depth about the capture before returning to duties in the Houston area. “He (the alligator) can’t see; he doesn’t know to run away from people. He doesn’t know we’re people.”
Stephens described how he hooked it by the tail, then spent an hour hauling it in, like an over-sized fish, with a heavy duty fishing rod normally reserved for sport fishing at sea.READ MORE: Texas Mother And Son Arrested In Wyoming For Murder In Oklahoma
“The entire time this whole rod was doubled over completely. And he was sitting on the bottom hanging on,” according to Stephens. “Pull him to shore, wear him down, and pull him out. It’s safest for the alligator and the people.”
Stephens says spring floods likely brought the gator from its home on a lake upstream or possibly the Fort Worth Nature Preserve. Alligators are native from the Gulf of Mexico to Oklahoma. The Nature Preserve acknowledges alligators exist within the preserve and warn visitors about their existence, but say they know nothing about the one captured downstream near a Fort Worth park.
Stephens says game wardens knew about the alligator for days and had followed it but got worried when it got too close to people, possibly because of its blindness. “There’s alligators probably through here all the time,” he said, pointing to the Trinity. “You’d never know they were here. ‘Cause they don’t want you know. they don’t want nothing to do with you, they’re swimming on by.”
Stephens says once on land the gator he captured was pretty well-mannered. “He never hissed, he never growled; once we got him up on the bank and tape off, he was just as nice and docile as an alligator can be.”
Stephens watched as the alligator was released in the wild, safely away from people. “Splashed some water on him and he hit the pond like he was home.”
Stephens urges people to give alligators a wide berth, and to by no means feed them. He says they are naturally wary of humans but can become aggressive if they associated people with food, or a threat to the reptiles’ food or territory.MORE NEWS: Southlake Ranks 20th 'Best Small City In America'; Keller & Flower Mound Most Affordable
(©2015 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)