Rising Miss. River brings gators with it

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 28, 2009

VIDALIA — Animal Control Officer Toxie Burnette usually responds to calls about God’s furrier creatures, but Tuesday he was greeted by an alligator on Riverside Drive.

Some neighborhood dogs were in the yard, barking at the gator, which was approximately 3-feet-3 inches long.

The gator wasn’t big enough to eat a dog, but the dogs were irritating the out-of-place reptile, and it was letting them know it.

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“He was biting at the dogs — he bit at anything around him,” Burnette said. “He would have bit a dog sure enough if it got close enough to him.”

The high water from the Mississippi River, which currently stands approximately 6.3 feet above flood stage, might have driven the gator into the neighborhood, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Biologist Supervisor David Breithaupt said.

“It has got the alligators out of their element, and that change could make them more likely to come over the levee,” Breithaupt said.

Generally speaking, however, Breithaupt said alligator numbers are up and one showing up in an odd place is not really out of the ordinary.

“They are kind of moving through and not really setting up camp,” he said.

If an unwanted alligator shows up, call the department of wildlife and fisheries, which has a nuisance alligator trapper, Breithaupt said.

“Stay away from (the alligator),” he said. “People need to be kept as far away as possible just for the fact that, the calmer the animal is when somebody arrives to take care of it, the better.”

In the case of the Riverside Drive alligator, Burnette was able to catch it with the catch pole he usually uses for dogs.

“He fought, but he wasn’t big enough to do anything — but he was bad and he would want to bite you,” Burnette said.

After catching the gator, Vidalia animal control released it back into the river south of town.

The license to harvest alligators is not like a hunting and fishing license, and is a heavily regulated activity, and Breithaupt said killing an alligator without a license is a federal offense.