WILMINGTON, N.C. — This was no toy in the attic.
A North Carolina code enforcement official was startled to find an 8-foot alligator in the attic of a home he was inspecting.
On Tuesday, Dean Brown, who works for New Hanover County, was inspecting a home under construction in the Echo Farms area of Wilmington when he climbed into the attic, located on the third floor of the structure, WECT-TV reported.
“I didn’t think nothing of it, I turned the corner, I’m looking around at the work, and I noticed what I thought was a fake, stuffed gator of some sort,” Brown told the television station. “And then I started continuing doing my job, then I looked back at him and realized he was moving and breathing.
“So, I chose to back away and take some pictures and call a co-worker and let him know.”
The men made sure the construction site was vacated and animal control officials were called to the scene, New Hanover County spokesperson Alex Riley told the Port City Daily of Wilmington.
“Because there wasn’t much light available, he used a flashlight to see and noticed the alligator, thinking it was not real,” Riley told the newspaper. “After a second look, the animal opened its eye and Mr. Brown realized it was alive.”
Brown agreed that he was uncertain about what he was seeing because the attic was dimly lit.
“So, that’s why I second-guessed what he was because he didn’t really move at first. He was kind of asleep, I guess,” Brown told WECT. “But once I shined my flashlight on his head, his eyes started to open, and he gave me a wink and let me know ‘I’m alive.’”
Brown decided to postpone his inspection for the day, the Port City Daily reported.
Riley told the newspaper that the wayward gator probably entered the home after a door to the vacant residence was left open over the weekend. The reptile then managed to climb the stairs to the top floor of the house.
Brown has been inspecting homes for about a year, WECT reported. It is his third encounter with an alligator, but certainly the first inside an attic.
“Nobody would believe me. You know, I made phone calls,” Brown told the television station. “I tell people around me; nobody would believe me. And one person did get around to go and look when he realized I was not joking. He was able to communicate with the rest of the workers on site to leave.”
No one was injured in the incident and the animal has been relocated. Riley told the Port City Daily that the alligator was safely released back into the wild.
As for Brown, he began his career in the air conditioning business in 1995 and has seen his share of animals. But finding squirrels and rodents in an attic does not compare to finding a snoozing 8-foot reptile.
“I have run into several snakes. You know, it’s the nature of, of doing construction and working, going under homes or going in attics, you’re liable to run into something,” Brown told WECT. “Whether they’re alive or deceased. It happens.
“Since then, I’ve been very cautious (with) a peek in and look around,” Brown told the television station/ “It was an experience that I’ll never forget.
“And I’m just thankful that no one got hurt.”