CLAYTON — It’s not every day people in Johnston County get to gather around a 12-foot-4-inch alligator to take pictures.
But on Monday, the body of such an alligator – infamous for eating an 80-pound husky dog last month – drew several curious people to Wise Recycling in Clayton.
The reptile is at Eastern Carolina Taxidermy in Smithfield to be prepared for display at the Onslow County Environmental Education Center. First, though, the taxidermy store’s owner, Jim Williams, decided to weigh the alligator.
A crowd of about 20, including children, gathered at Wise Recycling on Monday as Williams drove the alligator body over from his shop. It had been kept in a freezer at the store and was wrapped in blankets and placed in the back of his truck for the drive. Others helped him strap a makeshift harness around the alligator and lift it into the air with a forklift. They then lowered it onto a weigh station that is normally used for trucks.
People took pictures as the scale read 540 pounds.
Kathy Kalivoda, vice president of Wise Recycling, said she didn’t believe Williams at first when he called asking to weigh the alligator carcass.
“I thought it was an April Fool’s joke when they called,” she said. “It’s really cool that they selected us to weigh it. Though it’s kinda scary it would eat an 80 pound dog.”
Williams echoed that fear as he salted the alligator’s skin later in the afternoon at his store.
“It could have been a kid,” he said.
Last month, a woman in Jacksonville was taking her dog for a walk when the alligator snatched the husky from the edge of a body of water. Officials shot and killed the reptile for public safety.
When Williams is finished preserving the skin, he will mount it onto a plastic structure in the shape of an alligator. The bones and meat of the alligator will be sent back to authorities in Jacksonville to be examined, he said, including the contents of its stomach. Williams said he has preserved alligators before, but never one this large.
The taxidermy process will take about six months and cost about $5,000, he said.
On Monday, as parents took pictures of the alligator, children touched the reptile.
“It felt really cold and slimy and slippery,” said Kaitlyn Zhoroff, 10.
John Zhoroff, 9, said that when he got close to the alligator, “I wanted to get a cowboy hat and ride it.”
But if the alligator had been alive?
“I would just run away,” he said.