Some cold-hearted SOB cut off an alligator's head and dumped it in the woods of Westport yesterday. This is an astonishing act of animal cruelty, and the Westport police are asking for any help that the public might be able to offer. Call them at 508-636-1122 if you know something.
Why would someone own an alligator? Why would they cut off the head from it like it was MacBeth or something?
Well, I can see why someone would want to own one. Alligators are cool. Its like having a baby dinosaur. However, there is immense difficulty in having a gator around the house, and only serious people should consider it.
When non-serious people own them, they end up headless in the forest.
I did a bit of research on decapitating alligators. I thought it might be a Santeria thing, but nothing I dug up on Santerian animal sacrifices includes alligators. My sources might just have a passing interest in Santeria and not be aware of the Santeria Alligator Sacrifice Ritual, but I don't have enough to even start slurring Santeria people.
Headless alligators turn up in Florida and Louisiana now and then. Several sources are mentioned... poachers, trophy-hunters, fishermen who hooked a protected species and didn't want to talk to the park ranger about it... and even some guy who was injured (or perhaps had a relative killed) by an alligator, who now holds an Ahab/Quint-style grudge against the species in general. It could have been the work of a Florida State fan trying to send a message to his Florida fan neighbor.
Of course, not a lick of that makes sense in Westport, Massachusetts. The alligator poaching scene here is somewhat limited by the fact that alligators are not found in the wild in Massachusetts. Not many fishermen hook them up here for the same reason, and that low number is even bested by the paucity of people who come to Massachusetts looking to kill wild alligators for trophies. Ahab or Quint would know better than to hunt Gator here, and the 'Noles/Gator argument looks like a long shot.
That leaves one obvious answer, and one wild guess.
Wild guess first... has anybody ever had alligators fight? You know, like pits or chickens? Starve them, tell them one gator said something about the other's sister... get 'em mad enough to fight? Bet on it? Sort of like Jacco Macacco meets Wally Gator, while filming Bloodsport.
The animal lover in me beats it down, but before it goes down, the part of me that would like to see two alligators fight gets a few words off.
OK, two wild guesses... alligator meat sells for $19.99 a pound.
The more obvious answer is that somebody went all Sleepy Hollow on a pet. You can buy alligators easily enough. You can get one here (when in stock) for $149.99, no questions asked... at least not at the alligator store. Your wife or landlord may not share your enthusiasm for a pet alligator when it is as large as the sofa, eating X pounds of meat a week, sh*tting wherever the f*ck it wants, and maybe kinda possibly most likely might be responsible for the missing Schnauzer.
A decent man, when faced with that scenario, will try to sell the alligator through whatever channels used alligator sales move through. If that fails, he should man up and call the town's Natural Resources Officer to get the gator taken care of. It is illegal to own a gator in Massachusetts.
At that point, the less than decent man has to resolve the Ol' Yeller quandary... sure, you can lock Ol' Yeller out in the barn and let the rabies do him in... or you can do the humane thing, take him out behind the barn, and put a hole in his head like Dig-Dug.
I don't think that alligators get rabies, but if the wife issues an ultimatum, the effect on the gator's longevity is similar to that of Ol' Yeller. You can loose him into a Massachusetts lake in March to slowly freeze to death, or you can make the ending quick and painless.
That scenario gives too much credit to the man in the Westport case, who may also have killed it just so he could make a trophy of the head or jaws.
I have no idea, which is why they pay detectives to figure out stuff like this.
How about a quick quiz? The answers will be at the end of the article.
Which Sorts Of Wildlife Can You Own In Massachusetts?
3) Northern Leopard Frog?
4) Fathead Minnow?
5) Red-eared Slider Turtle?
6) Boa Constrictor?
7) Reticulated Python?
9) Ridge-tailed Monitor Lizard?
10) Komodo Dragon?
13) Southern Flying Squirrel? (I won't give it away, but owning the moose is illegal)
14) Water Buffalo?
15) Wolf-Dog Hybrids?
Imagine if the Westport alligator's owner got the speech from his girl in July, and decided to just let it loose into, say, Long Pond in Lakeville? As we kick it around here, remember that I'm not a herpetologist, and that this is more Edutainment than an actual expert speaking to you.
Alligators, according to my 45 seconds of research, can be active in temperatures as low as 40 degrees. 40 degrees may kill weaker alligators, while a stronger one will seek a warmer microclimate in which to do his alligator stuff. When he gets chilly, he brummates... which is a sort of less torpid version of hibernating. A lake gator in Massachusetts wouldn't live long, but for a spell, he'd be unchallenged on the top of the food chain... unless he went swimming with a great white shark.
Long Pond is a warmwater pond, covering 1700 acres. It's the largest pond in our region, and one of the largest in Massachusetts. It's the drinking water for New Bedford.
Long Pond was last surveyed in June of 1990 when fisheries crews found largemouth bass,
bluegill, chain pickerel, yellow perch, white perch, pumpkinseed, white sucker, alewife, blueback
herring, brown bullhead, golden shiner, tessellated darter, lake chubsucker and bridle shiner. A few
walleyes are occasionally taken in Long Pond River. Thanks to Mass,gov for the pond map.
I have no idea how cold or warm Long Pond gets (this chart shows what sort of fish prefer which temperatures of water, and you can sort of cross-reference what the summer water temperature may be in lakes that they inhabit), although I have read tales of released pet alligators surviving in southern Ohio.
I don't know how much fish an alligator needs. I have read that a meal goes a long way with a gator, and that a 1000 pound alligator will need less food in a year than a 100 pound dog requires.
The horror movie starts when he can't catch enough fish to survive. He might be able to snatch a deer as it gets a drink, but this isn't an Africa savannah with herds of antelope all drinking at once. Deer are also nocturnal, a time when Ali Gator would be brummating. No local animal has a defense mechanism response set for alligator attacks.
There are also families living in houses on the lake. Alligators have killed 26 Americans since 1970, and have maimed even more people. Even a 7 footer is perfectly capable of dragging away and killing a full-grown man. Alligators generally flee when humans approach, but if he's hangry or something... hey, time for some People Food!
An alligator in a Massachusetts lake with an acquired taste for human flesh would launch a bigger manhunt than a Chechnya brothers APB. We would be unable to call upon Steve Irwin. We'd have to solve this problem ourselves.