Texas A&M student gigs 'em with gator for graduation photos

Mackenzie Noland    
     CAPTIVITY The gator T Rex was taken in by the centre two years ago

Makenzie Noland celebrated her upcoming college graduation by posing in her cap and stole with her good friend "Big Tex" - a almost 14-foot-long alligator that lives in a wildlife sanctuary in Beaumont, Texas.

Makenzie learned Big Tex's favorite tricks and he warmed up to her, but she said all the gators have different personalities - and some are not definitely not as friendly.

Noland will graduate from A&M with a major in wildlife ecology.

Why did she, um, want to snap photos with a gator?

"I've been working with him to get to this point to be able to feed him by myself so it was intense", Noland wrote.

We got hold of Makenzie, who said now that Big Tex is used to her, he's just a big ole puppy dog.

Mackenzie Noland alligator graduation
MACKENZIE NOLAND BEST PAL Mackenzie Noland has struck up a close bond with the 12ft beast

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.

But for the skeptics out there, she says come on down to Gator Country!

Her photos have almost 4,000 shares and over 1,000 likes on Facebook in just three days.

Noland told The Wichita Eagle that she has been getting to know Big Tex since May 17 as part of her 3-month internship with the alligator adventure park and sanctuary. 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".

Since posting the photos to social media, Noland has gotten feedback from some people who love it and others who think what she's doing is insane.

The photographer, Arlie Hammonds, is co-owner of Gator Country. Because of this, he was relocated to Gator Country from his home, Champion Lake at Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge, in October 2016.

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