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Flooding Could Free 350 Gators at Texas Sanctuary

A flood of gators? The alligators in this photo are high and dry, but rising waters from Harvey could free hundreds of captive alligators at a park in Beaumont, Texas. (Image credit: billybruce2000/Shutterstock)

Swelling floodwaters in southeast Texas could spell big trouble for an alligator sanctuary that houses more than 350 American alligators on its property, according to news reports.

Drenching rainfall deposited by Tropical Storm Harvey has flooded Gator Country, an alligator rescue facility and adventure park in Beaumont, Texas. Water has already accumulated within less than 1 foot (0.3 meters) from the tops of the fences bordering the animals' outdoor enclosures; if waters rise high enough to cover the fences, the gators could escape, the southeast Texas news organization KFDM reported yesterday (Aug. 28).

"I've never seen [the water] stay anywhere near this before," Gator Country owner Gary Saurage told KFDM. "The staying power of this storm is just unbelievable." [In Photos: Hurricane Harvey Takes Aim at Texas]

Gator Country is a 15-acre preserve — about the size of 11 football fields — near Interstate 10 in Beaumont. On the property, Saurage and his team house rescued alligators that were stranded by storms, along with so-called "nuisance alligators" that were captured in people's swimming pools and backyards, according to a description on the park's website.

The park is also home to an assortment of other reptiles — including crocodiles and venomous snakes — all of which have already been safely removed to higher ground, KFDM reported. Gator Country's two largest alligators — Big Al and Big Tex, both measuring more than 13 feet (4 meters) long, and the biggest gators in captivity in Texas — were recently moved to trailers, and are also not at risk of escaping, according to KFDM.

In a video update posted today (Aug. 29) to Gator Country's Facebook page, Saurage reported that recent checks of the enclosed areas confirmed that the park's bigger gators were still contained.

"All of them seem to be right there," he said.  

Saurage and his team have temporarily suspended their work of rescuing alligators that have been spotted in residential areas in order to focus on keeping the park's present community of gators safely contained, he told local news outlet The Beaumont Enterprise.

Since Aug. 24, Beaumont has received 23.4 inches (59.4 centimeters) of rainfall, the National Center for Environmental Prediction reported today (Aug. 29). Up to 6 inches (15 cm) of rainfall and storm surges that could top 3 feet (1 m) are anticipated by Friday, the National Hurricane Center announced in a public advisory.

And for hundreds of Gator Country's alligator inhabitants, all that currently stands between them and freedom is less than 12 inches (30 cm) of water.

Original article on Live Science.

Mindy Weisberger
Mindy Weisberger is a senior writer for Live Science covering general science topics, especially those relating to brains, bodies, and behaviors in humans and other animals — living and extinct. Mindy studied filmmaking at Columbia University; her videos about dinosaurs, biodiversity, human origins, evolution, and astrophysics appear in the American Museum of Natural History, on YouTube, and in museums and science centers worldwide. Follow Mindy on Twitter.