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Pawleys Creek: Closer look at family photos finds unwelcome guest

Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Mary Margaret Rogoff was looking over some photos she had taken of her 3-year-old daughter near the Third Street boat ramp at Pawleys Island this week when she noticed an alligator eyeing the child from just a few feet away.

“It was one of those ‘Oh, my God, that looks like an alligator,’” the young mother from Birmingham, Ala., said a day later.

Rogoff said she was shooting pictures of a boat house in the evening light, and her 3-year-old, Alligood, was throwing rocks into the Pawleys Creek. The child sat down near the boat ramp, and Rogoff snapped a few pictures of her without noticing the gator near the shore. She saw it seconds later about 20 feet out in the creek and made a brief video.

Rogoff said she’s been coming to Pawleys Island for 30 years but didn’t expect to see an alligator in the creek. She went to Town Hall to report the gator and was told they get in the creek every once in a while.

“It’s their home,” she said of the alligators, “and we are just visiting. We should be aware. That’s the confusing part to me. I don’t want to sound like a dumb tourist, but it’s not really gator territory. We are aware of them at Huntington Beach State Park and Brookgreen Gardens. We see people tubing in the creek all the time. We’re never going in there.”

Rogoff said she’s not sure that a warning sign would have changed anything. “People need to be aware that that could happen,” she said. “I don’t know if a sign is appropriate or if it’s just education. I’m so happy that it wasn’t a freak accident.”

Rogoff’s husband, Jason, said they feel responsible to try and get the word out in order to avoid a “Disney World scenario” where a child was snatched off the shore by an alligator and killed. “We know you can’t fence them out,” he said, “but people aren’t really familiar with alligators.” A gator had to be removed by professionals from the surf at Pawleys Island last summer. Jason Rogoff said he was frustrated with the lack of concern at Town Hall.

The Rogoffs have been vacationing at Pawleys Island for years. Mary Margaret’s parents, Ann and Russ Chambliss, have owned a house on the island for more than three decades. This year, the family is here to clean out the house and complete the sale of it. “We grew up coming here,” she said.

Her husband has been vacationing at Pawleys Island for about 10 years. “Anybody goes to the beach knows there’s risk of sharks,” he said. “They don’t know of the risk from an alligator. We were very lucky that nothing happened.”

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