Lake Lanier has a new neighbor – an alligator.
it's a small one, a young one -- not like the big, old gator that made its home in the Chattahoochee River near Cochran Shools at I-285 for a decade. Rangers trapped that one in May and moved it to its natural habitat -- south Georgia.
This small gator was spotted twice in two months near Don Carter State Park, in the northern reaches of Lake Lanier, along the Chattahoochee River channel.
The first time was on July 4.
That's when Jim Brown got a glimpse of the gator from his boat, and immediately grabbed his cell phone and started shooting video.
"Just before I got into my dock, I happened to spot the alligator, just floating on top of the water,” Brown said. “We were extremely shocked."
It’s a rare sighting at Lake Lanier. Brown said the gator was about two feet long, seemingly content and eating well from the abundant wildlife.
"There's been a few sightings in the 12 to 15 years I've been here, but you never expect to see an alligator on Lake Lanier," Brown said. “It allowed us to get within 20, maybe 15, feet before it actually took off."
The second sighting – just this past Sunday – was near Don Carter State Park, again.
Michael O'Neal and Harold Grizzel were on the lake, fishing in a bass tournament, and they saw it come out from under a boat dock.
O'Neal grabbed his cellphone and took a photo.
"It wasn't scared of us, that's for sure,” O’Neal said. “We sat there and watched it for at least 15 minutes.... It seems like it had a home, right there, right there at those boat docks.... We were just amazed that we saw an alligator on Lake Lanier."
11Alive contacted the Georgia Department of Natural Resource’s Ken Riddleberger who said it's likely the gator was someone's illegal pet, and the person dumped it in the lake. He doesn’t think the gator is a concern for the public.
"Probably with the size, and the fact that it was probably in captivity, I doubt it's going to really make it through the winter."
Riddleberger is aware of people spotting three gators living in Lake Lanier over the years, including this latest gator. He said one was trapped and relocated, and he doesn't know what happened to the other one.
"I look for it every time I go out, now," Brown said. "And I'll probably never see it again."
Rangers said if they have the opportunity to trap the gator and move it to south Georgia, they will. But for now they said, if anyone comes across the gator, don't feed it, keep a distance, and take in that rare sight.