Growing problem

Tori lounges in the mud at the edge of a retention pond on Pier View Street on Daniel Island. The gator has grown large enough to worry some residents, but others — including Angela Boscoe — enjoy the having the animal around.

Angela Boscoe doesn't want to lose her alligator.

A lot of people around residential ponds get uncomfortable when the resident alligator grows a bit too big. Homeowners associations routinely keep a small stack of nuisance- removal permits, and when the gator gets just about as long as a young person, it's fair game. Trappers remove more than 100 alligators per year.

Boscoe doesn't want it to happen to Tori. And she has something to worry about. His days soon might be numbered.

It's that time of year: Water temperatures are rising, and the huge reptiles are crawling out onto the banks and into yards. Wildlife managers say more than 100,000 alligators roam the Lowcountry. They can grow to 14 feet and weigh as much as 500 pounds. They aren't cuddly. They are ambush predators. Provoking an alligator attack can be as simple as splashing. Their girth belies the quick snap of their strike.

A golfer lost an arm while retrieving a ball on Fripp Island last year. A snorkeler lost an arm in Lake Moultrie in 2007.

Each day Boscoe and her husband, Joseph, sit on the balcony of their Daniel Island condominium watching the lazy antics of the lone alligator in the large pond across the street. The gator moved in shortly after she did in 2008 and has made himself at home. She's fascinated by the armored-looking, prehistoric creature that was foreign to her when she moved in.

She named him after the tail end of the word "alligator." The name fits. The tail is now gargantuan; Tori has grown to between 7 and 8 feet long. Kids across the way have taken notice, she said, and sometimes throw things at him to get him to move. She's seen people drop him food. And earlier this week, Tori raised up on his haunches and began to crawl.

"He was walking all across the field. He knew exactly where he was going. There were kids coming down the street on bikes and we were telling him, 'No, no, no,' " she said. The gator crawled across the street to the shade at the entry steps to the condominium next door and laid down. Residents called the fire department, and Tori begrudgingly was shooed back to the pond.

How long Tori lasts now is entirely up to the homeowners association, said Sam Chappelear, regional wildlife coordinator with the S.C. Natural Resources Department.

"Especially if the alligator has been fed or lost its fear of humans. It can't be relocated. It's homing instinct is too strong. It'll come straight back, across highways, interstates, people's yards and school grounds. No zoo wants them; every zoo has more than enough alligators. It will be euthanized," he said.

Trapper Ron Russell, of Gator Getters, already has taken eight or nine nuisance gators this spring and is working on a few more. Two of them came from Daniel Island. "You have to keep kids and pets away from them," Russell said. "They have to understand that a gator isn't something fun to play with."

It's a shame to see a native creature like an alligator killed for problems that people cause, said Laurie Waters, Boscoe's neighbor. Tori doesn't worry Boscoe. He's part of the environment. He belongs there, she said

"I'm too tough for him to digest," she kids. "I wouldn't go anywhere near him. I respect him. He's just so much fun to watch."

Reach Bo Petersen at bpetersen@postandcourier.com or 937-5744.