Gator warnings go up at Lake Worth

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by CRAIG CIVALE

WFAA

Posted on May 27, 2010 at 11:27 PM

Updated Friday, May 28 at 10:32 AM

Lake Worth

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LAKE WORTH — When you think "alligator alley," you probably think of Florida.

But you may be surprised to learn that a giant gator was caught overnight in Lake Worth, and others may still be out there.

People are accustomed to seeing alligators at the Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge on the other side of the lake, but observing them where the public goes to play is something else entierely.

The city has now put up signs around the lake alerting swimmers and boaters.

The alligator that Joe Lewis captured overnight was nine feet, seven inches long and was found floating on the surface of the water at Lake Worth.

"We just saw him swimming in the open water, no debris around," he said. "Crept up; I got a pull noose, and got him up to shore."

Lewis is part of the group of workers who have been setting traps in recent days because of multiple alligator sightings in the lake.

"We were fortunate to see him, and we got him," Lewis said.

Refuge officials believe high water levels and strong currents may have driven some alligators from the nature center to the other side of the lake. That triggered the new signs, put up by Fort Worth, warning lake-goers to be careful.

It's not the kind of thing swimmers wanted to hear heading into a busy holiday weekend.

"I guess it gives you second thoughts about going in there," said swimmer Jeremy Scruggs.

But should it?

Lewis said people should "absolutely not" be concerned about swimming in the lake during the day. "At nighttime, I don't know if I'd do that or not," he added.

Wildlife officials can't say whether other gators may be swimming around the populated part of the lake.

"You always try to be cautious and careful, but I'm not going to let it stop me from having fun," said Chuck Pierson, aboard his personal watercraft.

Those who live at Lake Worth have shared the stories and the sightings for years, but now they've seen up close what was swimming among them.

The alligator that Joe Lewis caught was fixed with a radio transmitter and placed back in the lake on the refuge side, miles away from beaches and marinas. The signal will let wildlife officials keep track of where the gator is.

E-mail ccivale@wfaa.com

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