DEL VALLE, Texas — Neighbors in Del Valle are concerned after at least one of three alligators reportedly attacked and killed a dog on Thursday.
Officials say it happened at a retention pond near homes on Thome Valley Drive in Del Valle – the Berdoll Farms neighborhood.
A neighbor told KVUE she was walking near the pond Thursday afternoon when she heard a dog in distress. She called for help and firefighters responded.
"At that time he still was yelping," Crystal Jaime said. "But then you can hear an alligator growl."
The Austin Fire Department said that when crews arrived, they indeed found the alligators in a drainage area next to the pond.
"We didn't know this was there, so we were caught off guard," Lt. Austin Montanio said.
Austin Fire Department's Fire Station 50 – stationed a few blocks away – is new as of last year.
Firefighters reported that they were surprised to learn the area is actually a small alligator habitat. While there's at least one sign posted there warning people about the dangerous animals, there are no gates or fences. The pond itself is surrounded by a walking path, basketball court and a playground for kids.
"I just saw a group of kids the day before yesterday in that same area, catching minnows because there was a lot of water there from the rain," Jaime said. "So they're in that same area where the dog and alligators were."
Texas Game Wardens told KVUE they investigated the scene and spoke with witnesses.
"They confirmed the presence of alligators and other wildlife in a local retention pond, however the area is not designated as a protected animal sanctuary," Texas Game Wardens said in a statement. "Wardens were unable confirm evidence of an animal being killed. During the winter months alligators revert to stages of dormancy and often stop eating. Game Wardens will continue to monitor the area and work with the community on the best practices in dealing with alligators."
This is not the first time alligators have been spotted in the neighborhood, which has a public park and is not far from Del Valle Elementary, Middle and High School.
KVUE's news partners at the Austin American-Statesman also reported about the alligators at Berdoll Farms in 2018. At that time, neighbors said they were concerned for their children's safety, as they believed one of two gators spotted in the area could have been nesting.
"I'm not in any way blaming an alligator for being an alligator at all. However, I feel like there's a better home for those alligators," Jaime said. "Obviously, I don't think this is the right home for them. It's for safety reasons, for us, for our children and our pets."
"We do a great job of going over our territory," Montanio said. "These ponds that we have in this area – there's a few of them, five or six of them, and some of them are near parks and stuff – we haven't gone to every pond and actually looked for a sign that says 'alligator.' So no, we were very caught off guard. Honestly, I would have never thought right here this close to town, we would have a sanctuary like this."
While it is unclear where these alligators came from, it is legal to farm alligators in the state of Texas. According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, there are 14 alligator farming permits active in the state.
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