Alligator stuns beachgoers in Hillsboro Beach before being captured

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The condo-lined sands of Hillsboro Beach got a dose of wilderness Monday when locals spotted a wayward alligator in the surf.

At 7:30 a.m., Rich Loney was on the beach drinking coffee, enjoying the views, when his neighbor spotted what looked like an alligator.

“We thought it was seaweed, and the closer we got, we could tell it was moving,” Loney said. “I grew up in Ohio, so I didn’t know what it was — alligator, crocodile?”

As they approached it, the Hillsboro Beach Police arrived over the dune and told them to stay back. It was indeed an alligator, about 6 feet long.

Wildlife officials from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission eventually arrived to wrangle the alligator. WSVN reported that the FWC was able to subdue the animal around 1:15 p.m.

Officers had to wade into breaking waves, waiting for the alligator to come close enough to lasso with a catch pole. Once the gator felt the catch rope around its neck, it spun frantically to escape.

A police officer helped control the animal as a second FWC officer hopped on its back and taped its jaws shut. They then lifted it into the back of a truck.

According to NBC 6, the gator was taken west to the Everglades and released.

A canal that leads to the Everglades Wildlife Management Area leads to the Boca Raton Inlet, not far up the beach.

American alligators normally live in freshwater environments, but occasionally ventured into brackish or even salt water environments for short periods.

Their endangered cousins, the American crocodile, are a saltwater species that more often hit the beaches of South Florida. A sizable specimen shut down the beach at Pompano Beach in September.

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“Be aware,” Zoo Miami’s Ron Magill told NBC 6. “If you see a gator in the ocean, understand it took a wrong turn somewhere, and it doesn’t mean to be out in the ocean.”

Magill advises not to panic in such a situation.

“Don’t think this alligator is going to come after you for food,” Magill says. “He’s probably trying to figure out how to get back to fresh water.”