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.
Greenbrier County officials are scouring the woods near Cold Knob after receiving multiple reports that a lion—an African lion, not the mountain variety—is on the loose.
“We’re treating this pretty seriously,” said Robert McClung, the county’s senior animal-control officer. “Right now, we’re trying to confirm the initial report. Once we do that, we’ll figure out what we’re going to do about it.”
A local hunter, 72-year-old Jim Shortridge of Frankfort, was bowhunting for deer Oct. 17 when the lion reportedly approached him.
“I watched it for more than 40 minutes,” said Shortridge, who owns the parcel of land he was hunting on. “I watched it from my vehicle and from my hunting blind.”
Shortridge first saw the creature as he carried a cooler and his lunch from a vehicle to the 6-by-8 foot wooden blind.
“When I first saw [the lion], I thought it was a deer,” Shortridge said. “Then it growled at me.”
The cat ran away after Shortridge yelled at it. Convinced that the potential threat had disappeared, the slightly shaken hunter returned to his vehicle and retrieved his bow. Shortly after he began hunting, the creature came back.
“It paced back and forth, in front of the blind, about 10 yards away,” Shortridge recalled. “I sat and watched him. I kept shining my light into his eyes. The more I put the light on him, the louder he growled.”
Shortridge remains convinced that the animal was a male African lion. He estimated its weight at 250 to 350 pounds.
“It had a mane, so I could tell it was a male. And I’m sure it wasn’t a bear. Bears are all over Cold Knob. I see six to eight of them every time I go hunting, and I can tell the difference. Bears don’t shake me up at all. This lion made me pretty nervous,” he said.
Rightwing Prof guest-authoring at Maggie’s Farm has a tribute to West Virginia including discussion of the structure of Appalachian clans, ancestors (he had a really sound great grandmother),
I remember my grandfather saying that the one time she had to be hospitalized, he had to arrange the insurance behind her back because she believed insurance was government aid and she didn’t believe in it. She threw away every Social Security check she got in the mail, which even my very conservative, very Republican grandfather though was crazy.
his youth, and snake-handling preachers.
I grew up in the mountains of Northeastern Pennsylvania, and for more than a decade my wife and I have had a second home in Central Pennsylvania, another hot bed of Scots Irish culture. The locals hurry out to restaurants on September 29th to eat goose. The Michaelmas goose tradition survives there. Just about any statement is commonly appended with a secondary affirmative phrase, “so it is.”
These days, we’re living atop the Blue Ridge, which is so narrow that the combined county and state line meanders in a serpentine line along the ridge top, defined simply by the vagaries of the watershed line. Our house is in Loudoun County, Virginia, but our back yard (and pool) is in Jefferson County, West Virginia.
So exploring West Virginia, which I’ve otherwise only seen briefly in the vicinity of Wheeling on Interstate 70, is definitely on our personal agenda. There must be brook trout in those mountains somewhere. Rightwing Prof’s native soil seems to be just about as far west in West Virginia as you can get.