Texas College Student Takes Graduation Photos With Giant Alligator

Arlie Hammonds  Gator Country Rescue

Arlie Hammonds Gator Country Rescue

A new college graduate took to the swamp to celebrate her biggest achievement thus far - graduating from Texas A&M with a degree in Wildlife Ecology.

She posted the graduation pictures on Facebook and they went viral. Noland is about to graduate and is now interning at Gator Country in Beaumont.

Arlie Hammonds  Gator Country Rescue
Arlie Hammonds Gator Country Rescue

"I get in the water with that animal every day - he's one of my best friends there!" she tells the BBC, shrugging off a question about being scared. Since its publication on Friday, Noland's post has more than 200 shares and it only keeps growing.

But Noland insists to Inside Edition that she was never in any danger. She waded knee-deep into a pond wearing her maroon cap and sash (no gown; that might have gotten too soggy) and posed with "Big Tex".

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Tex is 14 feet long, or roughly 2½ times as tall as the 21-year-old Noland.

Tex even let Noland balance her university ring on his snout as part of the unusual photoshoot.

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Noland and the gator, who was adopted by the rescue centre in 2016 after overfeeding turned him into a nuisance for local boaties, have since formed a close bond.

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

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The rescue centre is owned by Arlie Hammonds and Gary Saurage and claims to be the largest alligator sanctuary in south-east Texas, home to more than 450 alligators, crocodiles and other reptiles. "We call him out of the den and I tickle his nose. He's a real-life dinosaur", Noland said, adding that she was honored to get the opportunity to work with him. "Before we catch the alligator, it does its "death roll" which is a defense mechanism that tires them out", she says.

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