Rain brings out critters

Hanahan Police and Animal Control capture an alligator that appeared in a Hanahan neighborhood Monday.

After waking up early one morning, Vesely Murray headed downstairs to the kitchen and was shocked by what she found. Spread throughout her kitchen floor was over three dozen dead shrimp-like creatures. The coppery-colored critters were discovered in every corner of the room as Murray frantically tried to clean them all up before her 1-year-old baby could get hold of one.

"I vacuumed and sanitized everything because I was scared of my baby picking one up and putting it in her mouth. Even after all this cleaning, I still couldn't find out where they were coming from," Murray said.

So what are these mysterious creatures? They are terrestrial amphipods, or more commonly termed, lawn shrimp, according to Dr. Dwight Williams, director of Cypress Gardens. Even though they aren't true shrimp, they are related. They are about half-inch long, and live in moist terrestrial environments.

"After a lot of rainfall, like what we have recently been experiencing, they come up out of the grass in search of drier spots and wind up in houses or on porches. However, they often become trapped and die. They require a moist environment, so they will quickly die if the new environment is too dry," Williams said.

The rainy end to the drought means an increase in aquatic creatures that now have more area to occupy. The recent storms that have hit South Carolina might explain the appearance of these lawn shrimp and increased alligator sightings throughout the Lowcountry.

As he was returning home from work Monday afternoon, Mark Lohr was surprised to see several police cars outside his neighbor's house in Hanahan. Looking closely, he saw a 6-to-7-foot alligator in the corner of his neighbor's yard against a fence.

"My neighbor's dog started to bark strangely, so she looked outside to see what was upsetting the dog and saw an alligator crossing the street into my other neighbor's backyard, where it got trapped against the fence," Lohr said. The alligator was caught and taken away by Hanahan police and Animal Control.

"The recent storms have opened up more avenues of travel for alligators in search of new territory by providing, for example, water-filled ditches," said Dean Harrigal, wildlife biologist for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

About 100,000 alligators are in South Carolina, but Harrigal assures there is nothing to be alarmed about. "With more people out and about, there are bound to be more eyes to sight the alligators."