Authorities at the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) captured and tranquilized a 10-foot, roughly 300-pound American alligator without incident after members of the New Orleans’s Lakeview community reported spotting the reptile ambling along a residential street on the morning of July 3.
In less than two hours, LDWF agents made it to the scene and were able to capture and tranquilize the alligator without incident, only to euthanize it later after contacting a licensed “nuisance alligator hunter.” The hunter in question has chosen to remain anonymous in the media, fearing targeted backlash from the public.
Many locals have expressed anger and even grief concerning the unjust fate of the Lakeview alligator. “What, too hard to drive him out to Barataria or a suitable habitat? Sounds like bad protocol for Wildlife and Fisheries. Wasn't that way when I worked there,” wrote Twitter user @WaltTheStalt, responding to a NOLA.com article.
The official story being put out is that the alligator was simply too big to move.
However, there’s an important distinction to be made here; physically speaking, the LDWF agents on the scene were perfectly capable of moving the alligator. Despite what headlines might suggest, its weight was not truly an object in the matter—they did not see the value in trying to move it.
LDWF officials have come out in favor of the hunter’s decision to kill rather than attempt to relocate the alligator, asserting that he was simply following protocol in doing so.
Alligator program manager Jeb Linscombe confirmed that the LDWF pushes euthanasia for alligators as large as the one found in Lakeview. Any alligator over 4-feet-long is automatically classified a "nuisance" and killed more often than not.
On the possibility of relocated Linscombe stated, “...you're really just relocating a threat and a danger from one area to another area.”
Linscombe also alluded the alligator would not represent a meaningful loss in the eyes of the LDWF as Louisiana is already home to roughly 2 million American alligators.
“They’re everywhere,” Lt. David Nunez said, an officer of the agency’s law enforcement branch. “You can see them pop up in the sewerage system, in the drainage canals, on golf courses.”
These sentiments don’t reflect the kind of special regard for wildlife and nature conservation one might expect or hope for from individuals involved with an agency that claims to be responsible for “managing and protecting Louisiana’s abundant natural resources."
Linscombe theorized the alligator was likely displaced in the recent tropical storm and was simply looking for a home. There was no evidence to suggest it had become overly habituated and therefore no reason to believe it would have returned to Lakeview or any other human setting upon release into the wild.
The alligator displayed no hostile behavior towards the members of the Lakeview community prior to its death.
If the LDWF wishes to model compassionate and sustainable conservation efforts in Louisiana they must rethink the way they understand human-wildlife interactions. Animals are not problems. The Lakeview alligator was not a “nuisance.” It was a lost, lovely creature, needlessly killed by the very agency sworn to protect it. Its death was an injustice and a disgrace to us all.
Grace Pulliam is a 19-year-old creative writing senior from Zachary, LA.