Remembering Chomper the Alligator’s legacy on the Gulf Coast
After being a staple attraction at Pine Hills Nursery in Pass Christian for more than 60 years, Chomper the Alligator has died.
The story of Chomper, also known as the king of the wild side, goes all the way back to 1958 when a man named Billy Cuevas rescued him right after he hatched. He was only six inches long.
Chomper was brought to the property now known as Pine Hill Nursery, where he grew to be a 12-foot, 900-pound friend to folks along the Coast who came to visit him. Cuevas said, “I really enjoyed him. A lot of people enjoyed it. Yeah, he knew me. I could go out there and talk and he’d be laying there and he won’t move until he hears my voice and then he’ll move and when he’s hungry, he’d come to the fence. If he wasn’t hungry, he wouldn’t look at me, haha.”
Chomper was a popular attraction along the Coast since he was first introduced to the area. Many men and women who grew up visiting the beast were able to bring their children and even grandchildren to see Chomper and learn all about him. Pine Hills Nursery Manager Rachel Bond said, “People bring their family from other states when they’re in town. They say that they always come to see Chomper, and parents and grandparents have brought their children and grandchildren, so it’s really neat to see people say I saw him when I was a kid and now these are my kids coming to see him, so it’s been really fun for us.”
The king himself was also the inspiration behind the team turning Pine Hills into an animal sanctuary. Today, Pine Hills is home to a variety of animals such as goats, chickens, turtles, and more. “He was our inspiration because people got so much joy from coming to see him that we just started adding more and more animals, but he was the first one.”
The team at Pine Hills announced that they will soon build a statue, post a plaque, and create a kid’s area in honor of Chomper, with construction starting soon.