Neighbors along a portion of the Tuscarawas River are concerned about the safety issues arising from individual hoping to catch a glimpse of the alligator living in the waters below Route 258.

"People are bringing infants out onto the bridge with them and looking over the side," said a woman who lives nearby. "Little kids are out on the bridge looking over with no low guardrail.

"People are even parking on the bridge with semis coming through on the road. Something is going to happen ... somebody is going to get hurt on that bridge."

In all, hundreds of people have visited the bridge and surrounding area.

The alligator was seen Monday sunning itself on a log just below the bridge on Route 258 that spans the river just south of Newcomerstown.

"I have seen as many as 13 people standing on the bridge at one time," said the woman.

The alligator was first observed by a boy who lives nearby.

The youth snapped a picture of the nearly four-foot-long on a cellular telephone to show his mother, who took additional pictures with a digital camera.

An average adult American alligator's weight and length is 800 pounds and 13 feet long, but they can grow to 14 1/2 feet long and weigh over 1,000 pounds.

The alligator is notorious for its bone crushing bite, which raises another safety concern as numerous individuals have reportedly approached the area by boat and wading in the river to see it.

According to unconfirmed reports, the alligator escaped from a nearby property when a utility worker entered the yard through a gate, allowing the 'gator to slip away.

It was reportedly one of three alligators that live or lived at the home.

Individuals have reported seeing a second alligator, approximately two feet in length, in the same area of the Tuscarawas River.

A former Tuscarawas County resident who currently resides in Florida has reportedly offered to help local officials capture the alligator, which would unlikely survive an Ohio winter.

William "Cappy" Sturtz, a licensed alligator hunter, guide and fishing boat captain, has offered his expertise to Tuscarawas County officials to resolve the issue.

The alligator is estimated to be two or three years old.

Tuscarawas County Sheriff Walt Wilson was not available for comment Monday morning regarding that status of efforts to capture the alligator.

In the meantime, authorities are cautioning individuals to stay off the bridge on Route 285 and out of the waters of the Tuscarawas River in that area to alleviate safety concerns.

(rstillion@daily-jeff.com)