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Huge alligator that ate 80-pound dog under the microscope

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JACKSONVILLE, N.C. - A huge alligator that ate an 80-pound dog in Jacksonville this summer is under the microscope.

And 9 On Your Side is the only news team that got an up close look at what's next for the reptile.

What was once a giant, dog-eating reptile is now little more than skin and bones. Jacksonville police killed the gator, but now its body is being put to good use.

Biologists are interested in the science.

"There's a lot of folks who don't realize we have alligators in North Carolina, and a lot of folks who don't realize how big they can get in North Carolina. This is a prime example," said Jon Shaw, a district biologist with the Wildlife Resources Commission.

Shaw extracted a leg bone from the alligator after it died July 24. He says you can determine the age by cutting the bone open and counting the growth rings.

"It will give us a minimum age estimate,” he said. “My guess is this alligator is at least 40 years old."

Police hunted the alligator down and shot it to death, after it ate an 80 pound Siberian Husky on Henderson Drive.

The dog's owners were playing with their pet when it went for a drink and the alligator attacked.

"Problem is, when a gator becomes in a populated area and grows so big, there's apt to be an encounter," said Jim Williams, taxidermist.

Williams will mount the alligator for display eventually at the Environmental Education Center in Sneads Ferry. He's got the hide covered in salt as a preservative.

He sent the skull to a fiberglass company in Minnesota so they can make a mold of its head.

"The skin still has to be tanned, but there's no need for us to go any further with it. The museum is still under construction," said Williams.

The Environmental Education Center won't be ready till after late fall or early winter.

"It's going to be part of an introductory area that talks about flora and fauna," said Lisa Whitman-Grice, Onslow County spokesperson.

Deedee Vialva is looking forward to it. She owns a beauty salon near where the alligator attacked.

"I would definitely take my children there, so I can be like, 'That's the alligator that they caught that day,'" she said.

Shaw says figuring out the alligator's age will help biologists learn why North Carolina alligators grow slower than those in other southern states.

Vialva says she's sad the alligator had to go, but in a way, it'll continue to live on at the museum.

That gator is 12-feet, 4-inches long and weighs 540-pounds.
     
The district biologist says out of the 60 or 70 encounters he's seen this year, this is the only one where the alligator had to be killed.
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