Monday, May 22nd, 2023

Alligators in St. Marys River

Authorities: 1 baby gator shot and killed, 1 still loose

By Leslie Gartrell
AUGLAIZE COUNTY - One alligator was shot and killed by local law enforcement and another remains on the loose after the two-foot long reptiles entered the St. Marys River.
The Ohio Department of Agriculture was notified of the alligators on May 7, according to ODA communications director Meghan Harshbarger. The report came to ODA through an anonymous complaint and sightings, she said.
Harshbarger did not say how the alligators ended up in the river or where they originated. She also did not indicate where they were initially spotted or where the surviving alligator may be now.
"These animals should not be approached and if seen, please call local authorities or ODA's Dangerous Wild Animal program," she said. "Protection of public health is the number one priority with the DWA program, and the potential for harm and threats to wildlife and people always exists."
One two-foot alligator was killed by law enforcement, Harshbarger said, confirming a firearm was discharged. She did not specify which agency fatally shot the creature or where the act took place.
"One alligator was killed by a local law enforcement officer. Any further information on this would come from law enforcement," she told the newspaper.
Auglaize County Sheriff Mike Vorhees said the sheriff's office has been made aware of the incident by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
He said a local ODNR Division of Wildlife officer killed the alligator. Auglaize County Wildlife Officer Mark Schemmel did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
"ODA has attempted to capture two alligators several times without success," Harshbarger said in an email. "At this time, one of the alligators has been killed by local law enforcement. One remaining alligator has not been seen since the initial incident."
"The remaining gator submerged itself under water during initial attempts to capture the animal," she continued. "They can remain under water and swim away; thus we are relying on local enforcement to report sightings."
The department had not received any new reports of sightings as of Friday night, Harshbarger said. Vorhees said the sheriff's office also had not received any reports. Asked if ODA suspects other alligators, Harshbarger said the agency is currently aware of only one "at-large" alligator.
Alligator ownership is legal in Ohio with a valid wildlife shelter permit from ODA, Harshbarger said. However, a state law passed in 2012 generally prohibits any person from owning, trading, selling or offering for sale a dangerous wild animal.
Illegal ownership of and knowingly releasing dangerous wild animals can result in criminal and civil penalties, she said. It's unknown who released the alligators, Harshbarger said.
Should someone see an alligator, Harshbarger said to call the local sheriff's offices, ODNR county wildlife officers or ODA's Dangerous Wild Animal (DWA) program.
Alligators have popped up locally in the past.
In late March 2007, boaters did a double take when they spotted a 4-foot-long alligator on a ramp at the West Bank boat docks in Celina.
After a closer look, it was determined the young gator - with a fish hook in its mouth and fishing line wrapped around its jaws - was indeed dead, officials said.
"If you know how alligators act when they get something in their mouth, this one probably did a death roll and got tangled in the line," said erstwhile ODNR officer Dave Sheets.
Officials weren't sure whether the reptile died of strangulation from the fishing line or if the cold water of Grand Lake killed it. The creature is native to the southern United States and would not have tolerated the chilly waterways of Ohio very long this time of year, Sheets had said.
"It probably was somebody's pet and it got too big. This is a problem in the state of Ohio and other places. People want exotic pets, and when they get too large, they just dump them," he said.
The officer said about 10 years prior to that discovery a South American Caiman crocodile was found along Southmoor Shores. It, too, was likely placed there when the owner decided it was too big to care for, he added.  
However, Sheets had said the alligator may have survived longer in the water during summer. A male American Alligator can grow to 1,000 pounds and approximately 14 feet in length. Their diet typically consists primarily of fish, birds and turtles.
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"Think twice before purchasing exotic animals. There's usually a lot of requirements to take care of them and most of these pets can be expensive," Sheets had said. "Even though they might be cuddly and cute when you get them, it doesn't take long before they're more than most people can handle."
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