Re: Gator Sighting

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Posted by David Price on September 23, 2003 at 00:55:19:

In Reply to: Gator Sighting posted by Daniel on September 21, 2003 at 22:38:48:

For those that may doubt the existance here is a lil I founf looking around on the net

First from US Fish and Wildlife site:
Are there alligators at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge?
Although seldom seen, American alligators do inhabit the Refuge. In the 1970’s, the alligator population had been reduced drastically, so 50 alligators were released here in an effort to help restore the species which at that time was federally listed as threatened. An estimated 40-50 alligators currently inhabit Wheeler NWR and at least one active nest was located during the summer of 2001.
Article from the Redstone Rocket:
Alligators at Redstone

-- 2-Jul-2003
The alligator got plenty of attention just by making an appearance.

Telephone calls and e-mails arrived soon after its photograph appeared in the June 18 edition of Redstone Rocket. Greg Patch, a photographer for Test Area 1, snapped the digital picture about 3 p.m. May 22 at Huntsville Spring Branch in TA 1.

“I was about 300 yards away when I shot it. I’d say he was anywhere between 12 to 15 feet long,” he said.

The alligator surfaced after heavy rain caused some flooding locally; and he or she stayed on the bank about two straight days. “That’s the first time I’ve actually seen one out of the water,” said Patch, among six members of the Photo Instrumentation Group who are affectionately called the PIGs.

“It makes you more aware of your surroundings out here,” he said. “It makes you more careful if you’re out in the water taking photos.”

The Rocket contacted the command Safety Office which forwarded our questions to Danny Dunn, chief of natural resources division in the Directorate of Environment and Safety. The questions and his answers follow.

How common are alligators on post? Where are they?

Dunn: “There are 1 to 3 that usually stay on the installation that we know about. The most frequent sightings are on Test Areas 1 and 6. We don't encourage people to try to find them.”

How did they get there?

Dunn: “They are most likely part of the group of alligators that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released on Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge during the early 1980s in an attempt to help control the beaver population. Alligators really have no natural enemies, excluding man, once they reach about 4-5 feet in length, and may live 70 years in the wild. So we expect them to be around for a long time.”

What should people do if they encounter them?

Dunn: “Leave them alone. Alligators really don't pose a hazard to people as long as you stay away from them.”

Anything else you'd like to say?

Dunn: “Alligators typically move away from people and don't like to be close to humans or human activity. The exception is when people begin feeding alligators. Once alligators begin accepting food, they begin to associate humans with food, and loose their dislike of being near humans. This creates a dangerous situation. Alligators may look slow and clumsy on land, but they are actually very fast and agile for 10 to 15 yards. And their tail can easily break a person’s leg.

Decataur Daily
In the 1970s, the refuge brought in alligators to keep the growing beaver population in check, but that was ineffective and public complaints prompted rangers to try removing the predators. Many remain, however.

They have also been spotted in The Cahaba River as far north as Marion and in Perry County as well.

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