ELKINS – In a scene straight from a B-reel Hollywood horror film, an alligator has seemingly spent the last couple weeks running amok near the city’s flood-control system off Georgetown Road.
Unlike its Tinseltown counterparts, though, this particular reptile wasn’t of the nuclear-experiments-gone-bad variety, nor had it torn off the limbs of any errant fishermen or terrorized any little old ladies.
The 3 1/2-foot alligator had been rumored to have been at the popular fishing hole on the Tygart Valley River for at least two weeks. Many locals dismissed the possibility as a simple rumor or social media post gone awry.
Not Tommy Livesay. After being shown a photo on a co-worker’s cellphone, the local angler, although skeptical, decided to go fishing for the beast over the holiday weekend.
“I went down there to go muskie fishing,” Livesay said. “When I got there, another guy had a barrel down there and said he already knew it (the alligator) was there somewhere.”
“There were people there with guns and bows trying to kill the thing,” Livesay added. “I figured if I didn’t try to get it out of there, someone was going to kill it.”
Livesay fished for several hour before finally catching a glimpse of the gator in the wee hours of the morning on Saturday. Finally, at about 6 a.m. Saturday, the angler was able to capture it.
“I was finally able to get it hooked,” Livesay said. “I used a small treble hook, so I wouldn’t hurt it.
Then, I just did like I’ve seen on TV. I caught it, taped its mouth shut and put it in the boat.”
“It put up a pretty good fight,” he added. “It was snapping at anything and everything. It definitely would have bit you, if it could of got ahold of you. It was sure big enough to take a finger off, and it was fast – really fast.”
After landing the gator, Livesay phoned his wife, Bridgette, to come assist him and to figure out what the next move would be.
“I don’t even know what to say,” Bridgette Livesay said. “He called me about 6 in the morning and told me he had fished all night and caught an alligator. I thought he was joking.”
“I woke the kids up and went up there and, sure enough, he had caught an alligator,” she added. “I never in a million years thought he would catch something like that. He likes to go fishing. He fishes for muskie and for carp. I didn’t think there was actually an alligator out there.”
After several phone calls to friend and a phone call to 911, wildlife officials from Buckhannon arrived at the scene. After securing the reptile, officials eventually transported the gator to Wheeling to be a part of the Oglebay Park outdoor wildlife program.
Through the whole ordeal, Tommy Livesay said he had just one thing on his mind – to catch the creature so it wouldn’t be senselessly killed.
“I knew if it wasn’t caught, it would likely die in the winter,” he said. “I really just wanted to get it our of there so someone else wouldn’t kill it. It was really fast – super, super fast. It’s unreal how fast that thing was.”
“Really, the alligator was the victim,” Bridgette Livesay added.
As for additional gators lurking in the Tygart Valley River, the Livesays are doubtful, but say anything is possible.
“People on Facebook have talked and said that they heard there are more out there, that more have been released,” she said. “As far as the others, that’s just hearsay. He (Tommy Livesay) hasn’t seen any more and hasn’t seen any there before, and he fishes there a lot.”
Fishermen, though, are likely to continue angling for not only monster muskie and carp, but also for the more unusual, like alligators. This fish tale certainly proves local waters cloak something more than just the run-of-the-mill fare. Maybe even Jeremy Wade from Animal Planet’s “River Monsters” will pay a visit to the now mysterious waters of the Tygart Valley River.