Published: Thu, August 09, 2018
Global News | By Blake Casey

Student Poses with Alligator for Graduation Photos

Student Poses with Alligator for Graduation Photos

That's what Makenzie Noland did to commemorate her upcoming graduation from Texas A&M. Mackenzie Noland, 21, majored in wildlife ecology and is spending her summer interning at an alligator sanctuary in Beaumont, Texas.

"I get in the water with that animal every day - he's one of my best friends there!" she said, dismissing concerns for her safety. During her time at the wildlife rescue, Noland has bonded with numerous 370 alligators on site, specifically Tex.

"Every single time I get in the water with him I realize how huge of a creature he is".

'It's just like how your dog would treat you if you treat him well'.

So does Noland. Her photo wasn't meant as an attention-getting stunt.

But it's Big Tex that steals the show - a gargantuan alligator who was adopted in 2016 after overfeeding turned him into a nuisance for local boats.

Gator Country Rescue is a 15-acre preserve that is well-known for being a safe haven for alligators and several other reptiles.

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Reactions to the photos - both positive and negative - have inspired Noland to continue her mission to educate the public.

It was only a matter of time - a few weeks, to be exact - before she was tickling his nose and giving him food and kisses.

The star attraction at the facility is a gargantuan beast called Big Tex.

Noland said she'll graduate Friday in College Station, and she hopes to find a job at a zoo in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

And it has been the ideal place for Mackenzie who said she has always been "picking up snakes and holding animals" from an early age.

A Facebook post from Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge explained: 'While the animal had not aggressively attacked anyone yet, it was considered a little too close for comfort'.

The photographer, Arlie Hammonds, is co-owner of Gator Country.

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