While the K-8 students at Valley Ridge Academy in Nocatee were off enjoying their Labor Day weekend, one St. Johns County resident seemed eager for school to be back in session — an alligator that was spotted roaming the school’s playground Sunday, Sept. 2.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC), witnesses contacted the Nuisance Alligator Hotline that Sunday morning to report the wayward gator, but the elusive reptile escaped.
“A trapper was dispatched, but the alligator had left the area before he arrived,” FWC Public Information Coordinator Greg Workman said, adding, “But if that alligator does pose a threat again or comes onto the school property, we really would like for the residents or the school officials to give us a call and we’ll be out there immediately.”
Christina Langston, chief of community relations for the St. Johns County School District, said that district staff had been alerted of the incident and assured that maintaining a safe and secure learning environment is the district’s top priority.
“We would never put students in an area where there was an alligator sighted on school grounds during the school day or extracurricular activities,” Langston advised. “In the event that an alligator was seen on property during school operations with students present, we would contact FWC and maintenance, and depending on the vicinity, we could decide to keep children indoors.”
Although many St. Johns County schools are located near or adjacent to retention ponds or wetlands, Langston added that such an event has never occurred in the district while school was in session.
To avoid the dangers posed by nuisance alligators, Workman encouraged residents to remain aware of their surroundings.
“Just be vigilant and understand that there is wildlife out there and we’re recreating on their land, most of the time,” he said. “We want everyone to have a great time, but just be aware and watch out, especially for your smaller pets. Stay away from the water when you’re walking home and be careful to swim in designated areas only during daylight times.”
Per the FWC, an alligator may be considered a “nuisance” if it measures at least 4 feet in length and poses a potential threat to people, pets or property. To report a nuisance alligator, Florida residents are encouraged to contact the FWC’s Nuisance Alligator Hotline at (866) 392-4286.