2013 Audra Melton Photography
As a Belgian girl, I have never been confronted with a gator in my life and the closest location I would have a face-to-face with one of those creatures would be at the zoo. But I am in Atlanta now and chances are slightly higher to meet Roger (The Penguins of Madagascar) … So when I came across this article published in the Altanta Magazine, I was immediately tempted to share some ga-gator facts with you.
First of all, there are about 200,000 gators (American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)) in Georgia. Mostly they are found in marshes, swamps, rivers, farm ponds and lakes in the wild, but also some have found a new habitat in ditches, neighborhoods, drainage canals, roadways, golf course ponds and sometimes in swimming pools. So no joke. You better know. The longest ever caught in Georgia was 13 feet 10 3/4 inches at Lake Seminole (25 Sept 2013). The heaviest was 680 pounds. So, once again: no joke. The statistics about human-alligator encounters date from 13 years ago … From 1980-October 2001, there ‘only’ have been eight reported cases of alligator attacks on humans in Georgia. Six of these incidents happened as a result of the human stepping on or otherwise contacting a submerged alligator. The remaining two incidents were a result of the alligator mistaking the human for prey. No fatalities, then. But in 2007, in Savannah, the life of a 83-year old lady was taken by a gator.
Although its population has rebounded, the American Alligator is still federally protected and feeding, harassing or killing of wild alligators is illegal in Georgia. Harvest of wild alligators is only permitted by licensed Nuisance Alligator Agent Trappers and hunters who have drawn a tag in Georgia’s Alligator Quota hunt. So, if you are looking for a different kind of activity, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Wildlife Resources Division (WRD) offers you a totally hands-on, eye-to-eye hunting adventure unlike any other hunting experience you can pursue. But you better be good at your ‘game’ as there are about 10,000 of applicants for 850 alligator hunting permits. In 2012, they harvested 247 alligators at an average length of 99 inches with the longest gator measuring 161 inches. The Georgia alligator hunting season is very short – one month or less, starting in September.
The Nuisance Alligator Agent Trappers (and they have a Facebook page) are individuals licensed and contracted by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to capture and remove alligators that pose a threat to people, domestic animals, or property. Annually remove about 450 alligators in the state. If you live close to a pond and you are missing a cow, your lab or your granny, you may want to call the DNR.
On the other hand, gator means business …Our state counts about 10 legal alligator farms all in South Georgia with South Georgia Alligator Farm being the largest with over 100,000 reptiles. Premium gator skins are in big demand in Europe’s high-fashion industry. Alligator meat is a good quality and flavorful meat naturally high in protein, low in fat and cholesterol-free. Properly butchered alligator tail will give you six large boneless fillets consisting of: two tenderloins, two top strips and two bottom strips. So you can now understand why there is a growing market for such animal. Wanna taste it? Alligator Soul in Savannah serves Crispy Okefenokee Gator in addition to camel, elk and antelope…
If you would like to meet a gator without risk, don’t try the Atlanta Zoo as they have only one that is smaller than my hand (and I don’t think that the public can even see it). Go instead to the Georgia Aquarium, now home to two rare albino American alligators. And for wild life adventures, meet them at the Okefenokee Swamp, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Georgia.
See you later alligator… (how lame. LOL).