Hilton Head family mourns 85-pound dog killed by alligator

An 85-pound pet husky was killed last week by an alligator in a neighborhood lagoon on Hilton Head Island.

Kodah had gotten away from the house and apparently was drinking water at the edge of a lagoon when he was attacked, said its owners, Ron and Beth Ann Julseth.

The dog’s body was pulled from the lagoon about an hour after the early morning attack on March 16. Teeth marks indicated it had been grabbed by the head and pulled into the water, Ron Julseth said.

The family pleaded for the alligator to be removed, which had not happened as of Friday.

Joe Moffo, whose Critter Management company is hired to remove nuisance alligators using state permits, said throughout the week that he expected to remove the gator soon and was awaiting a removal tag.

The Julseths used the incident to warn people not to let animals or children get close to lagoons.

“This was just unnecessary,” said Beth Ann Julseth. “We’re saddened by it. I don’t want anybody to have to go through this. I don’t want his death to be in vain.

“I know that wildlife belongs here and has its place. But the dog has its place, too. He wasn’t swimming in that pond. I’m afraid that it could have easily been someone’s child or grandchild, God forbid. I don’t want anything else to happen.”

Ron Julseth said the dog should not have been off-leash, but it happened by accident. He said Kodah slipped away as he was taking two puppies out the door. One of the husky puppies is theirs and one belongs to a daughter.

Beth Ann Jones Julseth grew up in Beaufort County and knows the ways of alligators. She knows not to feed them. She knows to respect them. But the Julseths think an alligator that grabs a dog at water’s edge is too aggressive.

“I know that gators are gators and we are infringing on their territory,” Ron Julseth said. “But we lost Kodah less than 100 yards from the house. It is very distressing for me. He was part of the family, your best buddy.”

The Julseths called Critter Management to remove Kodah’s body from the lagoon, where a gator was nudging it. A funeral home was called and the 5-year-old family pet was cremated. His ashes are on the mantelpiece, and his owners are begging for safety around the Lowcountry’s countless lagoons and alligators.

A woman was bitten by an alligator in 2013 while walking dogs near a lagoon in Hilton Head Plantation. In 2012, an alligator bit a woman who was fishing in a Shipyard Plantation lagoon.