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?