Thursday, September 25, 2008

Is Jurassic Park missing a critter?

If you are anti-hunting or a card carrying PETA member, you might want to stop reading now.

Alligators have fast become a nuisance in our state. Without natural predators, they've multiplied to an estimated 100,000-200,000 along the coast alone. The biggest problem is how extremely bold and aggressive they've become over the past few years. Since I live near a lake system filled with them, it's not unusual to hear of a gator snacking on someone's small dog who got too close to the water's edge. Usually they stay away from humans but last year a gentleman swimming where he had for years lost an arm to an aggressive alligator who attacked him, unprovoked.

This year S.C. passed a law allowing for a special month long hunt for alligators. For a $10 fee, a hunter's name could be put into a draw for one of only 250 tags to be issued. Modeled on preexisting programs in Georgia, Florida and Louisiana, the state was divided into five zones. A hunter may only hunt in the area assigned to him therefore such limits aid in maintaining nature's balance. To ensure that not every yahoo with a boat and a gun can head for the swamp, there are extensive rules about how a gator must be captured. If that doesn't sink in, the fact there is an additional $100 fee if you're chosen usually weeds out those without scruples.

Hubby drew one of the tags. He is the type of hunter I respect because he doesn't shoot at something just because it's there. He passes on as many shots as he takes. Six feet tall and built like a grizzly bear, he can tiptoe through the woods so quietly it's scary. His grandpa claimed they're part Blackfoot Indian. He may not have been kidding. Hubby has a respect for the outdoors that many claim, but don't practice. I hear as many stories about what he saw in the woods as what he aimed a bow or gun towards. You know a guy is quiet when a fox will sit beside him on the ground and not know he's human until he whispered "Boo".

I'm not going to tell you about the hunt or the ensuing aftermath because [a] he tells it better [b] I was safely sitting at home at the time and [c] because I really just want you to see what's out there in the world. The gator wasn't taken in the back of some black water swamp but about 200 yards from the lake house my mother-in-law once owned. Where we swam, fished, took boat rides. Where little kids played and people use to toss out toys for their dogs to retrieve. Most water activities are now done in the daytime because at night, if you shine a flashlight on the water you can see the red glow of gator eyes...often dozens at a time.

Let's just say this Jurassic giant tried to climb into the boat, chomped on the boat leaving teeth marks and a broken light in his wake and generally illustrated how tough and determined an ancient species has to be to last for eons.

This is 12 feet and 700 pounds of amazement. That's not fat around his jaws, that's muscle. And the boat has the scars to prove it.

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