A young alligator arrived at a wildlife facility Thursday, draped over his back was a fresh turtle shell and in the crook of his arm was the carcass of a chicken.
"Gator comes all the way from Louisiana to Texas," said Chris Wilmer, who owns and operates Wildlife Rehabilitation of South Texas. "We don't have any wild alligators here".
A 5-foot-long alligator has been spotted in Padre Island National Seashore southwest of Corpus Christi since early Thursday.
Wilmer said the reptile was first seen by a couple on their way to the beach. The woman called authorities, who tracked down the reptile roaming around a golf course and got it confined in an enclosure at the wildlife facility.
The 2-month-old alligator was originally from Louisiana and once frequented Louisiana swamps, Wilmer said. Wilmer said a Louisiana wildlife official is coming to pick up the reptile.
"Our habitat is alligator free," Wilmer said. "We don't have any place for these kinds of animals to live here."
Wilmer said he was unsure where the alligator came from as there were no signs of him being captured or being released.
"We don't have any documentation of where he came from," Wilmer said. "If someone has done this before, I don't know. If they have, they're not doing anything wrong."
The gator was placed on a plane Thursday and flown to the Louisiana Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Lafayette.
"As long as they're not in danger of being struck by vehicles or something like that, I would say it's fine," said David Smolen, supervisor of Agriculture and Natural Resources with LCRA. "We don't have any concerns about its status. He could be a pet. We don't know."
Smolen said alligators are not permitted in Louisiana, but they're common in Texas and can spread throughout the state. Smolen said his agency can't do anything with the animal and it's up to the agency that seized him to decide what to do with him.
Shelton said a ranger spotted the reptile and captured it, and it was returned Thursday evening to the park.
Officials are still trying to determine where the reptile came from, she said.
"We'll determine if he's been moved, released or came through some larger waterway," Shelton said. "We have lots of little bayous and rivers down here. If he was released, they're not doing anything illegal."
The national seashore is in the midst of its annual nesting season for Kemp's ridley sea turtles, which are considered a threatened species. Shelton said there is no known connection between the gator's appearance and that of the turtles.
"There is absolutely no connection," she said. "The female will come up on shore to nest and then return to the water. It's a natural, expected occurrence."
Large gators are rare in the area, Shelton said. She said she's aware of only two others spotted in the area over the past few years, but they were both smaller. The national seashore has an alligator monitoring program to track how many gators are in the bayous, and small ones like these are usually seen.
"Alligators come and go," Shelton said. "You're looking for something that's going to be a problem. There's a lot of small ones, but we don't want to see any large ones. They can be a problem. We don't want any big gators around."
The alligator was first spotted on the beach by a couple who didn't see it again until they returned to their vehicle. The reptile had ventured toward the golf course, and authorities managed to get it corralled in an enclosure at the wildlife facility, Wilmer said.
"We're trying to keep him alive and make sure he doesn't harm anyone," he said. "Yes, we could have released him but we're trying to do everything right.