Saturday, May 29, 2010

Chilton County Alligator Shot

This alligator was shot and killed yesterday morning by a Chilton County deputy sheriff.

It may not be all easy, living into the future with the alligator. But by protecting him, we will show that we have the sense and soul to cherish a wild creature that was here before any warm-blooded animal walked the earth, and that, given only a little room, would live on with us and help keep up the fading
color of our land.

According to the Clanton Advertiser, yesterday morning the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources authorized a Chilton County deputy sheriff to shoot a 9-foot alligator "as a safety measure." This animal was reported on a rural dirt road near a wetland at 5:00 AM by locals going fishing. It had no track record as a problem gator. But to justify killing it, the Jemison police chief said he believed it "could have been out searching for food" and therefore might attack a small child.

ADCNR's Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries has good biologists on staff who know a thing or two about alligators, but something went very wrong here. I don't know the details beyond what's in this article, but it appears that none of these biologists were consulted. Had that been the case, they could have assured the local police that this was nothing to be overly concerned about, explaining that it's alligator breeding season now, and this was in all likelihood a male making its way overland in search of a mate. And alligators are protected in Chilton County so just leave it alone.

When a large alligator is encountered out of water like this, mate-seeking is generally the reason, or else it's relocating from a dried wetland to more permanent water. This gator was not "searching for food" and almost certainly posed no threat to anyone with sense enough to give it a little space.

Chilton County is within the natural range of the alligator (see page 151 of The Reptiles and Amphibians of Alabama), and near its northern limit. The police chief said another gator was caught in the area a few months ago. After a long absence, apparently a population is becoming re-established in the area, but by authorizing the removal of a breeding adult, ADCNR is not encouraging its recovery in this part of the state.

An enforcement officer is quoted as saying, "A gator that size, if he's backed into a corner, he can be dangerous." Of course it can. But why back it into a corner in the first place?

Friday, May 14, 2010

"The Gulf appears to be bleeding"

Sobering aerial views and narration by Alabama resident John Wathen, taken a week ago (May 7):

It was reported yesterday that the rate of the oil flow from the ruptured pipe is (and has been) likely around 70,000 barrels a day — much higher than the official BP estimate of 5,000 barrels a day. Let's hope somebody's calculations are off. At any rate, it's coming from this:

More from Bill Finch here.

The short-term NOAA forecast looks grim for Louisiana's marshes and coastal islands, with Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida continuing to be mostly out of the path through the weekend, but for how long?

[UPDATE, 5/29/2010: With a now-estimated rate of flow of 19,000 barrels per day, BP just announced that the "top kill" attempt failed.]

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Campaign of Ignorance

This stupid, embarrassing ad by a conservative group calling itself "True Republican PAC" (backed by Alabama's powerful teacher's union) flat-out equates conservatism with being anti-science, at least as far as evolution is concerned. Not all conservatives share this view, fortunately, but I suspect most of my neighbors find nothing wrong with this.

(Technically, Byrne is incorrect about evolution, as abiogenesis is the correct term for the origin of life. Evolution is the change in the inherited traits of a population over successive generations. But still...)

[Addendum: Byrne, who briefly had my respect, has now lost me with this: "As a member of the Alabama Board of Education, the record clearly shows that I fought to ensure the teaching of creationism in our school text books." Reminds me of how, in former governor Fob James' (father of current candidate Tim James) appearance as chair of the State Board of Education, he "aped" the theory of evolution by slowly crossing the stage beginning in a crouch and ending erect in a widely reported incident that embarrassed more moderate Republicans. "Alabama’s lack of progress," Howell Raines wrote in the Boston Globe in June 1998, "can be linked directly to its penchant for electing buffoons." More here.]

Friday, May 7, 2010

Bill's Gulf Blog

Nobody is writing about the developing disaster in the Gulf like my friend Bill Finch of The Nature Conservancy.

"If those of us along the coast seem more concerned, more frustrated, a little moodier than some, it’s not because we know what the spill will do. It’s simply because we have a better sense of what we have to lose."

May 6: Relax, the Spill Will Get Here

May 5: A New Kind of Nightmare Every Day

May 4: Putting Out the First Line of Defense

May 3: I Think of All the People I Meant to Bring Here

May 2: Waves Too Rough for Booms

May 1: We're Doing All We Can Do

Image: Snowy Plover on nest, Dauphin Island, Alabama. Photo by Mark Bailey

Sunday, May 2, 2010


As I write this, the beaches 60 miles to the south are still clean, and the marine life and birds are still doing as well as they can in an already heavily altered environment. But the Deepwater Horizon disaster is about to change it all for decades to come. A generation of youngsters will grow up never knowing the Gulf Coast I knew. How, with all our amazing technology, can we allow such a thing to happen? It's so senseless. Eleven lives lost, an ecology and economy wrecked, all for that nasty black stuff we should have weaned ourselves from years ago.