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Sunbathing gator shuts down fitness trail | News

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Sunbathing gator shuts down fitness trail


SANDY SPRINGS, Ga. -- Chattahoochee's resident alligator loves these early spring temperatures. He (or she, it's still up for debate) has been escaping the cool waters of the river to warm himself in the shallow wetlands. As temperatures inched towards a record 82 degrees Tuesday, the National Park Service announced plans to close part of a trail inside the Chattahoochee River Recreation Area.

"The alligator has been pretty active lately because of the warm temperatures," Ardrianna McLane with the National Parks Service told 11Alive's Julie Wolfe. The Park Service decided to close a portion of the Cochran Shoals Fitness Loop to minimize stress on the alligator.  McLane said a small portion of the trail will be marked with sandwich-board style signs. 

"At this point, it's an educational opportunity," McLane said. The closed trail signs do fall under Code Federal Regulations (CFR), and anyone who deliberately ignores the instructions could be cited. 

The elusive gator made a splash earlier this month when wildlife photographer Victor Webb captured the most detailed photos to date. He estimated the gator to be between eight and ten feet. He said it was sunning itself on the river bank. When 11Alive's Jon Shirek tried to verify the sighting, he also spotted the gator sunbathing.

The National Park Service is working with the Department of Natural Resources and wildlife biologists to come up with potential solutions for the gator. "We're in the consultation stage right now," McLane said. The group of experts will come up with a "full range of options" in the days ahead. Tuesday's actions to close the trail are a temporary solution while the gator remains active during the warm spring weather.