Published on 10/12/2012
By Chris Sokoloski
Rachel Lankford and her daughter recently bagged a 12-foot alligator in Jericho Creek, across the Waccamaw River from Hagley landing.
"It was exciting," Lankford said. "I was glad to get my first big one."
Lankford and her husband, Mickey, own Carolina Exterminators, the company the state calls to take care of "nuisance" alligators that have wandered into swimming pools or lakes around Georgetown County.
But this year she was the only one in the family to get an alligator tag in the state's lottery.
So she went hunting with Mickey, their son Justin and Caroline, 12.
It was Caroline's first hunting trip and she was the first to spot the alligator.
Lankford said they cut the motor and drifted toward the gator, and then shot it with an arrow with a buoy attached, and put two hooks in it.
The alligator then submerged, and the Lankfords settled in to wait for it to come back up for air.
Since alligators can stay submerged for hours, they weren't sure how long they'd have to wait.
But within 30 minutes the gator reappeared. They later learned that the arrow had punctured the gator's lung.
The Lankfords used a noose with a snare, and the three lines to control it and finished it off with a shot from a .22-caliber pistol.
"There was no way he was getting away," Lankford said.
Lankford said Caroline was very excited but admitted later, "for about five minutes there I was really scared."
Once the gator died, the Lankfords realized that it was too big to take back in their 14-foot boat so they called some friends to bring a bigger boat.
Lankford didn't weigh the gator, but said it had cheeks the size of basketballs.
The Lankfords skinned the gator and froze the meat. They plan to have the carcass mounted. They've got a few they've caught already hanging in their office and one is on a wall at the Beaver Bar in Murrells Inlet.
"They need to be preserved," Lankford said. "The big ones aren't going to be around much longer because of all the hunting."
Some of the ones they've caught and stuffed they take to schools to educate children.
Lankford said her company responds to about 15 to 20 nuisance calls a year in Georgetown County. In one week last July they were called out every day.
Recently Justin pulled a gator out of a swimming pool at a house, and she captured one at the Lakes of Litchfield.
By state law, they have to kill the alligators they catch on nuisance calls.
The worst cases, Lankford said, are gators who hang around ponds at country clubs because residents are feeding them.
"A fed alligator is a dead alligator," Lankford said.