April 13, 2016 | by Karley Nugent
Gator Escapes Cypress Lake

To read about the second alligator escape a watch video of its capture and release, click here.

To read about the third alligator escape, click here.

In the mid-morning hours of March 17, students were shocked to see a Cypress Lake resident resting atop one of the walls designed to keep them in.

Alice Ferguson, Ph.D., an assistant professor of communication at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, said she knew something was going on when she saw a group of students near the lake taking pictures with their cellphones.

“I went out and I saw the alligator and the students taking pictures,” said Ferguson. “I came right back in the building, and I went to Lindsay Hobbs’ office. I said, ‘Hey Lindsay, you wanna go see the alligator?’ And she said, ‘Oh yeah. Let me go get my phone.’”

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Photo credit: Alice Ferguson

Ferguson, who photographed the absconder, said an officer of the UL Police Department arrived on the scene minutes later to attempt the push the reptile back into the swamp.

Sgt. Billy Abrams, public information officer for the university’s police department, said there is a procedure for handling escaped wildlife, but the primary goal is to keep the situation harmless.

“We just make sure that, well one, we don’t harm the alligator, and that the alligator doesn’t harm, you know, any of the students or anybody that’s in the area,” Abrams said. “We just do whatever it takes to get it safely back into the lake.”

Ferguson said the officer went back to the station, retrieved a longer pole and two other officers before returning to the lake and successfully getting the gator back in.

Abrams said once the alligator is back in the lake, the officers will investigate for damage to the area it escaped from. If damage is found, the police will contact the proper departments to make the necessary repairs.

The university doesn’t know how many alligators are in Cypress Lake, according to a UL Lafayette representative.

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Ferguson said she has seen this situation play out several other times in the past.

“About three or four years ago, an alligator of about the same size got all the way out of the pond and over the little brick wall, and he was actually on the sidewalk that goes from the back of our building over towards the Union,” Ferguson recalled. “He was almost as long as the width of the sidewalk itself, and he was on the ground and not the wall. Alligators are pretty fast on the ground, so nobody wanted to get close. That, I think, was probably the worst incident.”

Ferguson said she believes, although the situation can be entertaining, any students who come upon an escaped alligator should avoid getting too close.

“I would also add that word of caution that they really are fast,” Ferguson said. “You don’t wanna get that close to them. The only reason my pictures look like they do is because I had the zoom lens on the camera. It’s great to have the swamp and the wildlife, and I think the campus does a good job of sort of keeping that under control because we don’t see that happen more often.”


My name is Karley Nugent. I'm a senior in journalism, and an aspiring photographer. Currently, I'm a photographer for the Vermilion. I'm passionate about the national parks (especially Yellowstone) and am an avid explorer and hiking addict. My main goal in life is to be either a photojournalist for National Geographic or the National Park Service (you know, assuming they have those).

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