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Gator caught swallowing plastic at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge

Gator caught swallowing plastic at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge
Posted at 12:40 PM, Jun 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-24 13:10:20-04

WAKULLA COUNTY, Fla. (WTXL) — A Tallahassee woman says her peaceful Sunday at the St. Marks Wildlife Refuge took a sad turn when she spotted an alligator munching on a large plastic item.

Corine Samwel, who lives in Tallahassee, says that she was at the St. Marks Wildlife Refuge Sunday when she saw a gator swallow a large plastic object. In the video, the object appears to have a string attached to the end of it.

Samwel says that gator then wandered back to the water, with the string still hanging out of it's mouth.

Park officials say the gator was resting at the pull-off at Mounds Pool #1 on Sunday and confirmed that its likely still on the refuge.

"It's very concerning to see," said Refuge ranger Robin Will. "We try to take the high road and realize that some people don't intentionally mean to litter. But, it reinforces the fact that when people find litter and garbage, you need to pick it up and secure it."

She said refuge volunteers were "very disheartened," when they saw the video Monday morning because they've been "pretty aggressive" about keeping trash off the grounds.

Will believes it won't be hard to identify the gator, especially if the string-like object is still hanging from it's mouth.

"We have found gators hung up on string," Will explained. "We've definitely had that happen a couple of times. So, we definitely count on visitors to tell us if they see something."

The ranger said she was grateful to Samwel for alerting officials quickly and encouraged others to do the same.

"I was having a wonderful time at the St. Marks Wildlife Refuge until I saw this. I could not stop it!" Samwel wrote in a Facebook post. "Please people, do not use single use plastic and do not litter! I made it public so please share! I then picked up about five plastic bottles, ten beer cans, cigarette butts, surgical gloves, bike gloves, a rope, and all sorts of stuff."

If you trash or litter on the grounds, park officials ask that you take the time to pick it up and dispose of it properly.

Officials say visitors should also remember to keep their pets on leashes. Pets are not permitted to swim in refuge waters.