Re: another gator on wheeler


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Posted by Alan Clemons on June 20, 2003 at 11:25:38:

In Reply to: Re: another gator on wheeler posted by DC on June 16, 2003 at 22:05:05:

Gators were native to North Alabama but were extirpated until the early 1970s.

Former Wheeler NWR director Tom Atkeson reportedly wanted to re-introduce them to the refuge and river system. Understandably, public outcry at such an animal being repopulated would have been a problem to that re-introduction.

The story as was told to me by the late Tuck Stone, former Wheeler NWR director, is that Atkeson got federal approval to re-introduce the American alligator species into the lake as a "beaver control" option. Of course, it merely was to see if they would survive and thrive.

After a few years, Stone said, they wanted to get the gators out and tried trapping to remove them. Of course, that was unsuccessful. Atkeson's 'experiment' was a success, as far as nature and reintroduction is concerned.

Alligators have been spotted from Mud Creek to Spring Creek, although primarily in the Blackwell Swamp and Redstone Arsenal areas. They are reproducing. Some offspring survive the winters, reportedly with larger gators in the bluff caves or sinks with stable air-water temperatures in the mid-lake area.

I saw my first gator when I was 17 while fishing in the backwater sloughs around the southeast side of the I-65 bridge. Since then, I've also seen them in Blackwell Swamp, photos of large (8-footers) and small ones at Blackwell along with their nests, and at least two other possible sightings.

Gators also are spotted on Redstone Arsenal from time to time.

Alan Clemons
Outdoors Editor
The Huntsville Times


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