Texas alligator attraction worries Harvey-related flooding may let the reptiles swim away

While reports of sharks prowling the floodwaters around Houston have proved unfounded, there have been numerous authentic sightings of alligators in people’s driveways and backyards as rains from Harvey continue to pound southeastern Texas.

And if the waters continue to rise, there could be a lot more gators on the loose in one rural Texas town.

The owners of Gator Country, a local alligator attraction near Beaumont that has been inundated with flooding, are concerned that if water levels continue to rise the facility’s 350 alligators could escape into the nearby community.

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"We're less than a foot from (water) going over the fences," Gary Saurage, owner of Gator Country, told local media earlier this week. "All of these are certified, high fences, but when it won't quit, it won't quit.

Saurage added: "We've worked around the clock, and I don't know what else to do. We're truly tired. Everybody's at the end of it, man. We don't know what to do."

Besides the alligators, the exhibit is also home to numerous crocodiles, venomous snakes and other dangerous creatures. But Saurage said that any reptiles not indigenous to southeast Texas – along with the facility's two largest alligators, named Big Al and Big Tex – have already been evacuated to a safer location.

That still, however, leaves hundreds of alligators at the exhibit as floodwaters reach a level that Saurage said he has not seen in the 12 years that this Gator Country location has been open.

"Everything that is not from here, we've put up and we have in a safe place, but we live with alligators," Saurage said.

As of Tuesday, officials from the Texas Parks and Wildlife alligator program said that so far none of the alligators have escaped from their enclosures.

"There has been extensive damage to their buildings, but there is not a threat to human life," John Warren, who heads the alligator program, told the Houston Chronicle. "We understand it's a legitimate worry."

Warren added that there are already numerous alligators living in the wild around Beaumont and the ones at Gator Country – who have been in captivity for years -- probably wouldn’t stray far from their familiar food sources even if they get free.

As for the wild gators, Warren said that the flooding may lead them to end up in places they typically wouldn’t be found and that local residents need to exercise caution if they spot one of the federally protected reptiles.

“We're going to have displacement and you will see them where you haven't seen them before," Warren said. "Don't feed, don't harass it, and don't shoot them."