JACKSONVILLE, ONSLOW COUNTY - A Smithfield taxidermist is preparing for the 12-foot alligator, killed by Jacksonville officers after it ate an 80-pound Husky, for exhibit at the Sneads Ferry branch of the Onslow County Museum.
We spoke with taxidermist Jim Williams, who says he's keeping the alligator in a freezer at 10 degrees. He says he's going to thaw out the alligator on Sunday and hopefully begin skinning it on Tuesday with the help of his team.
After skinning it, he will soak the hide in a preservative and mount it on a mold. Williams also plans on sending the alligator's head to a taxidermist in Minnesota to have it cast. His team will then clean the skull and include that in the display.
Eventually, the alligator will be displayed at the Onslow County Environmental Education Center and Library in Sneads Ferry, which is still under construction. Williams says it will be about six months before the museum will receive the finished product of the alligator.
City officials said a woman was walking the Husky at dusk last month when it ran to the edge of the water where the alligator lived.
Jacksonville city officials have posted warning signs in the area where an alligator attacked and ate an 80-pound husky.
The signs, installed Thursday, warn residents not to feed ducks or other wildlife because of the risk of attracting gators. City officials believe the feeding of wild animals contributed to Tuesday's attack on the dog.
Drew Minx and Amy Matz said they were walking and playing fetch with their 80-pound husky, Simba, along River Street during dusk Tuesday. The husky then ran to the edge of Mill Creek near the intersection of River Street and Henderson Drive, where the alligator attacked and dragged the dog away.
"This behemoth of a gator just came out of nowhere- grabbed him, smashed him, took him under and disappeared," Minx recalled.
"We bring [our dog] down here every day for the past two months, and walk and play fetch with him down here. When I got down here, there was absolutely nothing left of him at all," Matz said.
State wildlife officials located the 12-foot alligator in the creek Wednesday. Authorities said they initially considered moving the reptile to another location. But state wildlife officials decided that the alligator should be put down because it displayed aggressive behavior and was so close to a neighborhood and nearby park. A police officer then shot the alligator, causing it to sink into the water, city officials said.
The alligator's body was pulled from the creek Wednesday afternoon. Police told NewsChannel 12 that because they found animal parts in the alligator's mouth, they believe it ate the husky.
Minx and Matz said crews were able to recover the body of their beloved dog, which has since been cremated. Matz said she will miss her husky's unique personality.
"He has this crazy, annoying, cute howl," Matz told NewsChannel 12. "I'll miss that the most, and he's my protector when my husband's gone in the field and deployed."
The couple, originally from Florida, said they didn't know alligators even lived in the Jacksonville area.
"This is my home. I assumed it would be safe," Minx said. "If I would have - I sort of beat myself up- if I would have just taken the time to look this canal up alone and the lakes this ran into, maybe this would have never happened."
The alligator may have mistaken the dog as a large duck, Jacksonville officials said. Ducks often frequent the area, due to residents feeding them. According to city officials, feeding ducks causes them to stay in one place, and that attracts alligators.
There have also been reports of people feeding gators in the area to lure them to the water's edge, officials said.
Alligators usually feed at dawn and dusk, city officials explained. The reptiles are native to the New River and nearby creeks.
Assistant City Manager Glenn Hargett told NewsChannel 12 even his backyard has an alligator nesting in it. Hargett said the reptiles will always coexist with humans, but it's best to leave them alone.
"It was sad to see the gator go," Hargett said. "It was a magnificent animal and such there, I mourn also for the loss of the dog and I know this couple really appreciated having that pet."
City leaders are reminding residents to keep pets on leashes in accordance with the law.