WHITE LAKE, NC (WWAY) -- It's called the safest beach in the nation, but now White Lake has more of a "Lake Placid" feel. A 12-foot alligator is on the loose.
"Oh, my God," Tina Locklear of Lumberton said when she heard the news. "We're going to have to take the kids and leave, because it's really frightening."
Wally has been missing from his swamp at Goldston's Putt-Putt since Saturday morning, but there's no need to fear.
"He just lays there and does his job, which is look nice and attract people, and that's all he does," said Goldston's owner John Womble. "He's a good alligator. Never has hurt anybody."
That's because Wally is not a real reptile. Police and the watchguard at Goldston's saw two people run to the lake with the fake gator and take off in a boat, but they couldn't catch them. Womble thinks it's a couple of local teens playing a prank.
"The problem is the alligator is worth enough to where it could be a felony charge," White Lake Police Sgt. Terry Fell said. "We don't want to go that route."
Womble is offering a $100 reward to anyone who can locate the gator. He didn't have a photo of the 200-pounder, but Fell saved the day with a detailed description.
"It's big and green with a yellow bottom," he said. "It's not concrete. It's made out of a fiberglass/resin mix."
Womble says he's not worried about any of the other artificial animals at his course being stolen.
"No we only have one more animal: the elephant, and he's bolted down, so if they can get him, they're welcome to him," Womble said.
But Wally had sentimental value. He's been an icon at Goldston's for 19 years.
"It's like losing one of the family," Womble said. "You know, it's just killing me, so I'm looking forward to his safe return."
Right now, the only evidence police have to work with is some chipped paint where the pranksters dragged wally over the fence.
"They'll be charged with felony larceny, felony possession of stolen goods and trespassing, because it is a fenced-in area they crossed over to get to the gator," Fell said.
Police say if the culprit sees this story and wants to return the alligator, bring it back to the shoreline, no questions asked.