Georgia Department of Natural Resources is investigating an alligator sighting at Pettit Creek around Cartersville.
"Georgia DNR Law Enforcement was notified [on Dec. 2] about the possibility of an alligator sighting on private property in Bartow County," said Melissa Cummings, communications and outreach specialist for the Georgia DNR's Wildlife Resources Division. "However, that sighting has not yet been confirmed by our staff.
"DNR law enforcement is planning to set up a camera at the sighting location to see [if] it can be confirmed. Until then, no plans are in place for capture of the animal."
Reported by CSX Conductor Chris Hilburn, the Adairsville resident spotted the alligator twice from his locomotive Sunday.
"I was in disbelief," Hilburn said. "I'm an outdoorsman. So I've been outdoors all my life. I'm in the woods or on the water most every day. I looked down and saw it go in the water. I told the guys I was working with 'I just saw an alligator.' They all started horse laughing at me, like anybody would do.
"We went back to the spot where I saw it and it wasn't there. We had some more work to do, so we went and did the work. It was probably about 45 minutes later [when] we came back through the same location, and there he was — he was laying on the banks," he said, noting the alligator looked about 11 feet in length. "It was actually my coworker …. [who] snapped the picture."
Even though alligators reside in Georgia, Cummings shared it is uncommon for the reptile to naturally venture this far north of the Fall Line — a geological boundary where rivers pick up steam as they move from the higher-in-elevation Piedmont land to the Coastal Plain.
"Georgia is home to approximately 200,000-250,000 alligators, which while native to Georgia, are typically found south of the Fall Line, which roughly connects Columbus, Macon and Augusta," Cummings said. "While unusual, an alligator is sometimes spotted in other areas of the state.
"How does that happen? It is possible that if the area is close enough to the Fall Line, the animal can follow a waterway a little further north and adapt as needed. However, if the area is a long distance from the Fall Line, it is often likely that someone originally moved the animal. This usually occurs when the animal is quite small, then starts to get larger and the person is no longer willing to keep it. They then dump it somewhere."