American alligators, and their cousin Indian marsh crocodiles, apparently have figured out that if they balance twigs on their snouts, wading birds will try to snatch them for nests. For the quick-snapping gator, that’s free lunch. ...
A recently released study – published in Ethology, Ecology and Evolution – is the first to document “lure-baiting” by the species, and one of the few lure-baiting behaviors documented among animals overall.
Nah, you say – just dumb luck? Well, the study documented that alligators in Louisiana use the twig trick only during a relatively brief bird nesting season.
They have thought this thing through.
“For people working with alligators it comes as little surprise because we already know how smart they can be. But for the general public it is apparently a bit unexpected,” said Vladimir Dinets, a University of Tennessee psychology researcher, who is the study’s lead author.
“They are capable of very unique things when it comes to feeding,” said wildlife biologist Phil Wilkinson of Georgetown, who has spent more than 30 years studying the American alligator.
An alligator is such a bizarre, unusual sight in the waters of the Upper Mud River that even seeing isn’t necessarily believing.
“I didn’t even tell my wife,” says Jack Stonestreet, who was fishing on the river last Thursday. “I didn’t tell her because, to be honest, I didn’t think anyone would believe me.”
Fishermen over the past several days contacted the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources to tell them of the gator sighting. On Saturday, Nick Huffman, a field superintendent with the DNR, saw the scaled reptile with his own eyes.
“I would say he’s a half grown alligator, a total measurement of 67 inches,” Huffman says. “That’s big enough I knew not to get on him in hand-to-hand combat.”
The DNR shot the alligator and pulled it out of the water.
The alligator will now be dissected. Opening the alligator’s stomach may give the DNR some insight as to where it may have come from and how long it was in the river.
West Virginia has almost no regulations on alligator ownership– probably because most people have sense enough not to own one!
But I have seen alligators and caimans available at pet stores, and every once in a while, someone releases a pet alligator into a river or lake in hopes that it will survive in the wild (I guess).
The problem is that alligators live only as far north as northeastern North Carolina. There is some debate about about them having an historical range into southeastern Virginia. I’ve always heard that the Great Dismal Swamp was the northern boundary, but I’ve also heard that alligators once ranged into the James River. In North Carolina, they are found only in the coastal plain, where the winters are comparatively mild. My guess is if they were found in Virginia at one time, they were never found out of the extreme southeastern part of the state, and if they did occur in the James River, my guess is they were found only near the coast.
If they aren’t found outside of North Carolina’s coast plain, how on earth could they survive in West Virginia?
When moose began showing up, for the first time since Colonial times, in the 1980s in Connecticut, the authorities immediately responding by shooting every one. Government just naturally abhors any novelty.
Personally, I don’t think a single gator represents that much of a hazard, and I think his presence made that river a lot more interesting. If I were in charge, I’d have simply encouraged alligator watching and proposed changing the mascot of the local high school team to an alligator.
In early December, residents of Vista Plantation began seeing an unusually large white-colored alligator in the community’s lakes west of the Indian River Mall, said subdivision manager Charles Smith.
“It was pure white,” he said.
The 300-pound, 10-foot-long adult alligator is seen resting on the shores of one of the man-made retention lakes along the golf course fairways winding through the subdivision’s condominiums. That lake is north of State Road 60 and west of 66th Avenue.
But when park officials called in a wildlife official to verify the alligator is albino, they learned the coloring is instead a coating of white minerals from untreated water pouring out of an artesian well emptying into the lake.
Bruce Dangerfield, Vero Beach Police animal control officer, humorously offered to pull the animal out to prove his point.
“I offered to catch it and use a scrub brush,” Dangerfield said to prove it, to which subdivision officials declined.
Yet, the alligator could continue to get fresh coats of white minerals as long as it stays around the artesian well. The coating is on the animal’s thick skin and isn’t a threat to its health, officials said.
PINELLAS COUNTY, FL (Clearwater/Tampa area)—An Eastlake Woodlands woman made a beeline for the door when she saw what was next to her refrigerator Monday night.
According to deputies, 69-year-old Sandra Frosti heard a noise coming from her kitchen. When she went to check what it was, she saw the head of a large alligator.
Frosti called 911, “There’s an alligator in my kitchen!” she explained. The emergency operator reportedly suggested it might be an Iguana. Frosti suggested otherwise and left the house.
Deputies showed up at the home a short time later and then called a trapper.
Deputies believe the 8-foot 8-inch (2.64 meter) gator was after the family cat. It apparently broke through the back porch screen door, entered the home through an open sliding glass door, and then made its way in through the living room, down the hall, and into the kitchen.
The gator was slightly injured as it was being trapped, when a plate was knocked to the ground cutting the alligator.
Reggie the alligator—the John Dillinger of semi-aquatic reptiles—was returned to custody Wednesday after having busted out of the slammer at the L.A. Zoo overnight.
Reggie, who had won international fame while eluding capture in a Harbor City lake for almost two years, was last seen in stir about 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. About 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, zoo personnel discovered he’d blown the joint.
It was an hour and a half later when a search party of zoo handlers discovered him hiding out near a zoo loading dock.
“He’d found a comfortable bush to hang out under,” said handler Ian Recchio, who participated in the bust. “He was just sleeping there. Reggie was pretty heated up this morning. As the weather gets warm, alligators get more agile and stronger.”
Recchio said the 7 1/2 foot, 120pound fugitive “put up a little fight” as authorities laid hands on him. He then went quietly as he was hustled off to quarantine while zoo investigators tried to dope out his escape route and tightened security at his luxury cell. ..
Initial indications were that Reggie had climbed a chain-link fence at the back of his enclosure, then clambered over a series of brick ridges above it to freedom. Once on the ground, he followed another chain-link fence about 500 yards to the loading dock area.
One of America’s most-wanted has finally been caught… having spent the past two years lounging in a Los Angeles lake.
For months, the 6.5ft (2m) alligator called Reggie evaded authorities and was more headline news than the average A-list celebrity.
Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin had even offered to help nab Reggie at one point while the local newspaper kept a Reggie Watch on its masthead. He even inspired a song, two children’s books and innumerable T-shirts.
Every day, crowds of people converged on Harbor City’s Lake Machado hoping to catch a glimpse of the elusive creature who was dumped in the park by its owner back in 2005.
But when his time was up – as he sunbathed in a secluded area of the park – Reggie refused to surrender without a fight.
In true Hollywood style, as TV helicopters hovered above and fans and paparazzi gazed on, Reggie thrashed around as six men attempted to restrain him while reptile expert Ian Recchio hooked its neck so the alligator’s jaws could be taped shut.
Reggie was then loaded onto a truck by firefighters bound for Los Angeles Zoo where he will be kept in quarantine for up to two months. Clearly fame doesn’t come without a price.
Reggie was an illegal pet allegedly tossed into the 50-acre lake by a former policeman when it got too big. The officer pleaded not guilty in April to 14 misdemeanor charges and awaits trial.
When the animal was first spotted in the murky lake in August 2005, it became a sensation as crowds gathered to catch a glimpse. Locals named it Reggie, though it’s not clear whether the reptile is male or female.
Gloria and Danny Gutierrez said they would go to the lake several times a week and watch for Reggie. Gloria Gutierrez wore a white T-shirt decorated with the words “Welcome back, Reggie.”
“We’d bring our chairs out here and a bag of fruit, and we’d talk with people we didn’t even know,” Danny Gutierrez said.
The gator inspired a zydeco song, two children’s books and innumerable T-shirts. Students at Los Angeles Harbor College next to the lake adopted Reggie as a second mascot.
A correspondent of mine on outdoor matters forwarded this email to me today:
This picture was taken by a Lifeflight helicopter flying over Lake Istapoka, (For those of you who are not local, Lake Istapoka is near Sebring, Fl.) That has to be a HUGE gator to have a whole deer in its mouth! Are you ready to go fishing on Lake Istapoka ?! If you ski—try not to fall.
Date: Mon, 1 Aug, 2006 06:14:24 -0500
The alligator was found between Lake Istapoka and Pinedale estates… near a house, Game Wardens were forced to shoot the alligator- guess he wouldn’t cooperate. Jayne and Don Hobkirk could hear the bellowing in the night. Their neighbors had been telling them that they had seen a mammoth alligator in the Lake that runs behind their house, but they dismissed the stories as being exaggerations. “I didn’t believe it,” Don Hobkirk said. Friday they realized the stories were, if anything, understated. Florida Game and Parks game wardens had to shoot the beast… Joe Goff, 6’ 5” tall, a game warden with the Florida Game and Parks Commission, walks past the 23-foot, one inch alligator that he shot and killed in the back yard of Jayne & Don Hobkirk…
I like to mention storoes of this kind here, so I went looking for news stories. Surprise! I didn’t find any.
What I found was a number of links indicating that the giant alligator-with-deer and game-warden-named-Joe-Goff photos were from separate sources, and the email story was a hoax.
The alligator with deer photos were actually taken by Terri Jenkins of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from a helicopter flyong over Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge, about 40 miles south of Savannah, Georgia, on March 4, 2004. The alligator in the photo was estimated to be at least 12-13 (3.6-4 meters) feet long.
The game-warden-walking-past-gator photo was taken by Val Horvath, and published in The Facts (Brazoria County, Texas) April 16, 2005.
The alligator was really 13-foot, 1-inch (4 meters) long. It was shot and killed in the back yard of a home in the Bar X Ranch on FM 521 near West Columbia, Texas by Joe Goff, a game warden with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
Hoax emails are in circulation combing the Terri Jenkins photos with the Val Horvath photo, enlarging the alligator’s size to 23 feet (7 meters), and misattributing the location to several places in Florida and Texas.
An eleven year old boy fishing in Shady Lane Pond in Kalispell, Montana, a less than tropical location, hooked a 5 foot, 60 pound alligator, which was subsequently brought ashore and dispatched by a crowd of local Montanans.
The question is: how did the alligator manage to reach that size without encountering a Montana winter?