By Mason W. Canales

Killeen Daily Herald

A fisherman said he spotted an alligator by the Lampasas River near Stillhouse Hollow Lake twice this week; officials say it's nothing to worry about.

Eric Dominowski said he had loaded his boat to go fishing on Stillhouse Hollow Lake. He traveled upstream both times, and each time he saw an alligator.

"It was pretty far upriver," Dominowski said. "Both times when we were up there, (the alligator) was lying out there on the bank pretty close to the water. ... When we got up there, he got into the water, and we bolted out of there because we couldn't see him."

Dominowski said the alligator appeared to be about 6 feet long.

Seeing the alligator scared Dominowski. He had heard stories about alligators being in Stillhouse Hollow Lake but hadn't believed them.

"It is not uncommon to have alligators there," said Capt. Fred Churchill, Texas Parks and Wildlife game warden. "Reports range in size from anywhere between 4 and 10 feet."

Lake visitors have reported alligators to the Army Corps of Engineers for about 10 years in that area, said Dan Thomasson, Army Corps of Engineers Belton and Stillhouse Hollow Lake manager.

"The (reports) that we have gotten have all been in the river before the lake," Thomasson said. "We have never gotten reports of an alligator being in the main body of the lake."

The Lampasas River is alligators' natural habitat. They have been there for at least 30 years with no reported attacks, Churchill said.

"They are not a problem," Churchill said. "There are no issues with them. They are just part of the natural habitat to be in the river. ... They are just cohabiting with all the other wildlife in the area."

Texas Parks and Wildlife officials receive several reports of alligators in Stillhouse Hollow Lake this time of year because fishermen are traveling into the river to catch white bass and crappie that breed in shallower water, Churchill said. That shallow water also is where alligators like to live.

"The alligators are just as scared of you as you are of them," Churchill said. "Leave them alone and don't approach them. When you see them, just enjoy the sight of seeing them in the wild, and go about your business."

Churchill also warned people not to hunt or shoot alligators.

"If you shoot them, you are going to get some criminal charges brought against you," Churchill said. "I promise you that."

Contact Mason W. Canales at mcanales@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7554. Follow him on Twitter at KDHheights.

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