Reporting by WVUA 23’s Chelsea Barton

Footprints are the first sign Terry and Jennifer Deerman said they saw of the alligator living near their home on Lake Tuscaloosa. The Deerman family took WVUA 23’s Chelsea Barton out on their boat to Brush Creek Slough near their home, where they said they saw a 5- to 7-foot alligator while enjoying the Labor Day holiday on the water.

“The kids were out on the boat, they called us kind of panicky, said they had seen the alligator,” Jennifer Deerman said. “So we went down there and we looked. Didn’t see him at first but we told the kids to go on and we’ll look for him. We rode around the slough for a little bit, came up on him in the back corner of the slough. He actually looked like a … piece of bark, just floating. His eyes were closed but when he opened his eyes, you could definitely tell it was the alligator.”

This sighting comes with more substance than the many rumors that precede it: the Deermans have the pictures and video to prove a Lake Tuscaloosa alligator exists.

“What concerns me is, if it all of the sudden popped up, is the food source running out on it?” Terry Deerman said. “Because I don’t want it to be one of our kids that it starts gnawing on, you know?

A chief worry is that the alligator could become aggressive. In fact, the Deermans recently pulled a beaver from the lake they think had been attacked by the alligator.

“He swam straight to me like he was needing help,” Terry Deerman said. “So we dipped him up and get him on the pier, and the back half has almost been bitten off, it looked like.”

Perhaps the scariest part of this is how camoflauge the alligator is. The safety of their family, they said, is of the utmost concern.

“Well down here, we’ve got some grass and it blends in really well. Even when you see it, when we pulled right up on it, she’d seen it and I jumped up and it was right there, and it almost looked fake. And then it takes off but you would never see it if you was not looking for it.”

The Deermans were sure to call wildlife officials, who said they’ve immediately begun checking out the problem.

“We will go out there tonight with spotlights,” said Jeff Makemson, Tuscaloosa County’s supervising wildlife biologist for Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. “Their eyes really glow at night and it is very easy to find them. If it is relatively easy, we may go ahead and just capture it tonight and take it on south.”

And the Deermans said they and their family, even the four-legged members, will rest, and swim, much easier once they they know the alligator is no longer their neighbor.

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