REQUIRE SPECIAL CAPTURE TECHNIQUES
ran into Travis Ryan last week, and he reminded me of an unusual animal
capture we made when he was a graduate student at the University of
Georgias Savannah River Ecology Lab.
is currently professor of biological sciences at Butler University in
Indianapolis. He was at his desk early on a Sunday morning when I came
to him and said, Hey. Lets go get a cup of coffee.
As we poured our coffee, I said, Weve got a problem. Can
you walk out back with me to see something?
was an 8-foot alligator that the custodian had just told me about. It
was in the courtyard. At the time, we had an 8-foot female alligator
and a 12-foot male that we kept in a fenced-in pond and used for educational
purposes. The male was named Stumpy because of his missing front foot.
you come help me catch an alligator? You and I and the custodian are
the only ones here this morning, and Mrs. Stump has escaped from the
holding pen. I outlined the plan. Our mission was to return Mrs.
Stump to the pond inside the enclosure she had somehow escaped from.
Travis accepted the mission.
every large alligator capture I have been involved with has been memorable
in some way. Not surprising when you consider youre trying to
catch an enormous reptile with huge teeth, powerful jaws and a muscular
tail that could break a persons leg with one swipe. Ive
never met any wild animal that wanted to be captured, but an alligator
expresses its displeasure with great authority. Nonetheless, it can
be done with the proper techniques. We needed them that day.
established procedure, I had a long pole with a wire noose on the end,
a large towel, duct tape and an assistant Travis. The gator faced
us and did not run, as if it were out to catch us instead of vice versa.
Nonetheless, I advanced toward it and slipped the noose over its snout,
pulling the wire taut.
lay there on the ground, staring at us. I handed Travis the pole, walked
around to the gators side and tossed the towel over its head,
covering its eyes.
step was to duct tape its mouth shut. Like many animals when the eyes
are covered, gators usually remain motionless. Usually is
the operative word because, just like people, wild animals are individuals.
They dont always do whats expected of them.
moment of lying still, as if considering what our next move might be,
the alligator levitated 2 feet off the ground and began rolling over
and over like crocodilians do. The towel flew skyward and landed on
my head, the noose slipped off the lower jaw and the alligator landed
on its feet, ready to take us on. To Traviss credit, he hung on
to the pole and tightened the noose.
As I removed
the towel from my own eyes, I saw with alarm that the noose was still
around the gators mouth, but only its upper jaw, not the lower.
This meant a snapping pair of jaws was in full operation. Somehow we
managed to drag the gator back to the gate of the pond enclosure and
wrangle it into the pond without getting bitten, slapped by the captives
tail or attacked by the 12-foot male that watched us with interest from
the center of the pond.
back out the gate, we finished our coffee and congratulated each other
on a job well done. Or so we thought.
reminded me, I had forgotten the final chapter of the story. The next
day I appeared at his office door and said, Hey, guess what? Turns
out that wasnt Mrs. Stump. Shes still in the enclosure.
That was a wild alligator that had wandered up from the swamp. Lets
go get some coffee.
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