In the wake of Tropical Storm Harvey, many Houston-area residents have returned home to unbelievable destruction: Overturned furniture, rotting wood and waist-deep floodwater, in some cases.
At least one homeowner near Lake Houston, however, encountered a different kind of shocking, post-Harvey sight.
Deputies with the Harris County Precinct 4 Constable’s Office responded Friday to an “intruder call” at a home in Humble, Tex., on the northeast side of the metropolitan area.
“Upon arrival, deputies were met by a large alligator who made his way into this flooded home,” the constable’s office said in a Facebook post, along with a photo of the animal.
The alligator was pictured underneath a long wooden dining table, on top of what appeared to be a water-damaged rug. Random household items — a toppled plant, plastic storage bins, a refrigerator door shelf — lay jumbled nearby.
According to ABC13 Houston, experts from Wildernex Wildlife Control arrived and helped pull the nine-foot-long gator from the home. Video of the removal showed at least four people carrying the animal out of the home and loading it into the back of a truck.
The alligator was returned to its natural habitat, officials said.
It is unclear how the constable’s office planned to remove the alligator from the home — or which specific deputy found the wherewithal to stand still long enough to snap the close-up photo of the animal.
As jarring as the reptilian visitor may have been, similar sightings have cropped up across areas of Texas hit by Harvey. A woman in Missouri City, Tex., southwest of Houston, recorded two alligators swimming in her flooded backyard last week.
The extensive flooding has also yielded a flood of gators-on-the-loose stories in Southeast Texas in recent days, as Harvey moved east toward the Texas-Louisiana border. Hundreds of gators at one farm had escaped, went one possibly true rumor; hundreds of gators were close to escape, but hadn’t yet breached their pens, went the counternarrative.
Officials differed in their accounts, too. A Beaumont police officer in the city’s animal services division said Thursday hundreds of gators at the Gator Country farm were still in their pens. An Army staff sergeant at Ford Arena, a Beaumont entertainment complex that was functioning as a staging ground for military rescues, said Friday they most definitely were not.
Then there was a volunteer rescuer, Yochanon Zobrist from Greenville, S.C., who said he personally saw three alligators near a creek in Port Arthur while out searching for people to rescue on Thursday.
Either way, several residents in the Beaumont and Port Arthur area said wild alligators were not an ordinary occurrence around those parts.
A slew of other bizarre animal appearances have been documented on social media in Harvey’s aftermath. Some are fake, like the doctored image of a shark purportedly swimming along on a flooded highway. Others, like these floating fire ant colonies, are very real.
Wildlife experts told The Post’s Karin Brulliard to expect more such sightings in the Houston metropolitan area as its animals — including American alligators, deer, raccoons and more than 20 species of snakes — are displaced by the rising floodwaters:
With no Noah’s Ark to ferry them away, they’re showing up in some unusual spots, Texas wildlife officials and professionals say. Those same people add, despite the fearsome reputation of some animals, there’s no reason to panic.
“In Houston, you’ve got pretty much two things: Where you build, which is higher, and where you don’t build, which is low. Wildlife is going to seek the higher areas, which happens to be the places where we build,” said Kelly Norrid, an urban wildlife biologist for Texas Parks and Wildlife. “Mammals that don’t want to be in the water … may end up being in your attic or garage.”
… An alligator in the yard is probably the last thing many Texans, coping with a natural disaster, need right now. But [alligator relocation specialist Chris] Stephens said he’s telling callers to stay calm, keep their distance and definitely don’t try for a selfie with the animal; those with a gator under their car might try nudging it with a long push broom, he said.
“They got flooded out of their pond, they got flooded out of their river,” he said. “They had to evacuate, too.”
According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, most Texans who live near native American alligators have no confrontations. The 2015 death of a 28-year-old man outside of Beaumont — after he went swimming in a bayou despite a sign that read “No Swimming. Alligator.” — was thought to be the state’s first verified fatal alligator attack in about 200 years, the Houston Chronicle reported.
Though it is “extremely rare” for wild alligators to chase humans, the state parks department notes they can run up to 35 miles per hour over short land distances. For what it’s worth, alligators and crocodiles are also known to be able to climb trees, according to National Geographic. Perhaps the best thing one can do upon seeing an alligator is not to engage it at all.
“Alligators have a natural fear of humans, and usually begin a quick retreat when approached by people,” the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department states on its website. “If you have a close encounter with an alligator a few yards away, back away slowly.”