Was killing of 10-foot alligator justified?

May 28, 2010 7:01:22 AM PDT
The state Parks and Wildlife Department sent out a warning to all of Texas: Alligators are about to become more active and visible. Early Thursday morning, some police officers experienced that first hand.

Alligators are often on display in our area, but on Wednesday night, a 10-foot American alligator put on a show by crawling onto the feeder road and taking a nap, essentially blocking traffic.

But once officers and a game warden arrived, the alligator was put down instead of being relocated.

At 10 feet long, he was a sight to see. Police officers turned into paparazzi with digital cameras. The large reptile definitely caused a scene.

It's believed he came from a nearby bayou at Interstate 10 and Federal before deciding to take a rest on the East Freeway feeder road.

Despite the Thursday release on of a Texas Department of Parks and Wild Life Public Service announcement "suggesting a live and let live approach whenever possible," this sleepy gator was shot to death.

"That particular warden has to make a determination of whether that animal posed a threat to human or public safety," Game Warden Albert Lynch said.

Lynch was the one who arrived early Thursday morning and made the call to euthanize the alligator instead of relocate it. Stan Mays, the curator of herpetology at the Houston Zoo, hated to see that happen.

"That's not really what I would do," Mays said.

Mays says it's mating season right now, and alligators in the Houston-area are moving and becoming aggressive. And since the American alligator was removed from the endangered species list in 1978, they have flourished in southeast Texas, making the fiercely territorial animal hard to relocate.

"Most of the alligator habitat is already occupied, and even now with all of the subdivisions going up all around the place, alligators are being forced out of their native habitat," Mays said. "This is a hard decision to make but sometimes, it is necessary."

The alligator was given to a contracted hunter and alligator farmer who sells the meat and hide. Alligators currently are sold for about $10 a foot.

The Parks and Wildlife Department offered some tips on how to deal with gators:

Don't provoke or feed an alligator, which is against the law.
Don't swim at night or at dusk or dawn when alligators are busy feeding.
Do supervise your children closely when they're playing in or around the water.
Call the Parks and Wildlife Department if you see a nuisance gator that's lost its natural fear of people.

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