12 July 2005

Gator Assassination

You'll recall the guy who might be in trouble for killing a gator which somehow got up here to Virginia. Well, here's how they handle those critters down in Florida:

This year [the gators are] out in force. The places where I'd previously seen one a week started featuring one a day, sometimes two or three. They're also noticeably bigger than they were last year.

Anyway, one evening shift, my colleague Officer Rehnquist noticed a six-footer crouched by the side of the highway, waiting patiently to cross. As he watched, the gator waddled out into the middle of the traffic lane and stretched out on the asphalt. Rehnquist worried that the gator would get run over, and that the motorist would then get out of his car to investigate, thus becoming a snack. So he blocked that lane of the highway, and called the dispatcher to send Animal Control out.

Unfortunately, the creature was a little too big for Animal Control to handle, so the dispatcher notified the Southern State Department of Natural Resources, which agreed to page out one of its wildlife officers. The wildlife guy came from his house, driving his personal pickup truck with his two adolescent sons in tow, and Rehnquist later described him as a major redneck. Since Rehnquist is something of a redneck himself, I take his word as authoritative. Upon arriving, the wildlife officer promptly announced that he was going to shoot the alligator.

His reasoning for this? The sun was setting by the time he got out there, and he told Rehnquist he "didn't feel like" dealing with the thing after it got dark. So he popped the gator in the back of the skull with a .22, sending it into a thrashing death roll, then tossed the corpse into the bed of his pickup.

The reason he was legally permitted to take this course of action at all is because the alligator population has experienced a healthy resurgence in the last few years (as evidenced by the increase in gator activity around Devil's Island). This prompted the government to downgrade the alligator from "endangered" status to merely "protected". This is a positive development from a species-survival standpoint, but it certainly didn't shake out in this particular one's favor.

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