Joint Base Charleston 600-pound gator drawing visitors daily

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Charleston's historic homes and beautiful battery, draw visitors from across the world.

Add one more thing to list of things to see, if you're lucky enough to get on Joint Base Charleston's Naval Weapons Station.

There's a famous attraction that draws visitors almost daily.

It is Charlie the alligator, and on sunny days, people gather along the chain link fence, trying to snap pictures of Charlie and his offspring.

"Charlie's been in this enclosure since the late '60's or 70's," said Terrence Larimer, the Natural Resources Manager at Joint Base Charleston.

Generations of people have stopped by to gaze at this gator, which along with his mate, share the retention pond with ten offspring.

Robin Beck works nearby, and visits often.

"From last year, I'd say the babies have grown at least two feet in length, so they're healthy," Beck said.

Charlie is a permitted captive alligator, so game wardens watch over him and feed him.

Larimer said Charlie doesn't eat much, because of his slow metabolism.

The big gator is fed a couple of times a month, and dines on roadkill found on the base.

The other gators take the leftovers, Larimer said.

"What Charlie wants, Charlie gets," Larimer laughed.

When Charlie's Place was renovated, Charlie was removed and measured.

The size of two grown men, he is one inch over twelve feet in length and weighs about 600 pounds.

Only when he goes to the big pond in the sky will they know how old he is.

"You can take an alligator tooth and cut it in half and count the growth rings in there, and get a lot better guess at exactly how old he is," Larimer said.

For now, they're guessing he could be 60, even 70 years old.

Clearly, Charlie has grown accustomed to attention.

Jade Franklin stopped by to see the gator on her birthday.

"It's definitely a sight to see, especially with the babies, it's really cool," she said.

His commanding presence earned Charlie the rank of Officer in Charge of Complaints at Joint Base Charleston.

The fence around Charlie's place gets regular inspections to keep the gators in, and people out.

Charlie is a mascot, a legend, a grand old gator his visitors say should be respected and protected.

"It's a big deal, it's cool to come down and see one that big, that healthy and his family," Beck said.

Larimer reminds us it is against state law to feed an alligator, and feeding Charlie is discouraged.

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