An alligator in the surf caused a stir on Folly Beach on Wednesday afternoon.

The 10-foot reptile was spotted on the beach near 6th Street West about 3 p.m., Public Safety Director Dennis Brown said.

The area is between Center Street and the county park. Several people snapped photos and shared them on social media.

It's not unusual for alligators to get caught in tidal waters and end up in the ocean, although they don't like the salty water, DNR officer Angus McBride said.

Officers called the Department of Natural Resources, who called in alligator specialist Ray Covington with Nuisance Removal Wildlife Service to deal with it.

Covington pulled out a pistol, shot it in the head and hauled it off.

Several people sent out tweets expressing outrage that an alligator was shot on the beach in front of bystanders

Covington said he had no choice.

"Anything that large you can't relocate, and he was sick," Covington said.

Trying to haul it off alive to kill it elsewhere would have been too dangerous, he said.

"An alligator that big can take somebody's leg off with one bite," he said.

"That's nothing to play with. People's safety comes first."

Covington said he stood over the animal and shot straight down into its head, so there was no chance of the bullet ending up anywhere but in the sand.

Kayla Brennan of James Island, a Clemson University senior home on summer break, was there when the gator was shot. She said she understands Covington's point, but the experience was very upsetting.

She said Wednesday night that she saw somebody show up with a noose and figured they were waiting for a truck to haul the gator off somewhere, she said.

"Out of nowhere we hear this shot," said Brennan. "Nobody expected this to happen. It was just a little shocking."

A lot of people standing around burst into tears, she said.

"I think people are still pretty shocked, even with the explanation," she said. "I walked away because I didn't want to stick around and watch."

Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553.