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NEWSFILE: ALLIGATORS AND CROCODILES

Crocked Croc...

CARTAMA, Spain (AP). A 16-foot crocodile in southern Spain that suffered a mangled leg in a fight with another crocodile will have surgery to remove scar tissue impeding its movement.

The 50-year-old male patient lives at Crocodile Park in Malaga province, the only marine park in Europe that breeds crocodiles. The 1,100-pound reptile, named Press Cargo for the freight company that shipped him to Spain from Botswana, lost more than a foot of its tail and suffered severe leg injuries in the fight last year.

Since then, a lump of scar tissue has emerged where the leg joins the body, restricting the movement of the limb. The surgery to remove the scar tissue is scheduled for Friday.

Drought means fewer alligator nests?

THE ADVOCATE (Baton Rouge, Louisiana) 13 July 98

Marsh survey says drought means fewer alligator nests... Deep in the marshes of south Louisiana, the state's two-month drought has dried up many of the shallow ponds where female alligators live and nest. It's not a simple cause and effect from dry marsh to no eggs, but there are far fewer alligator nests than usual in the Southeast, says Noel Kinler drastically, he said.

Kinler spent the first week of this month flying low over marshes to count alligator nests - heaps of leaves and stalks about 3 feet high and 5 to 6 feet across. ‘The sun and the decaying vegetation create the heat required for the eggs to hatch, ’ Kinler said. It will be two weeks or more before he translates his tally into a public announcement of how many alligators can be harvested this fall. The low number of nests this year doesn't necessarily mean a drastic drop in the future alligator population. Most alligator eggs and hatchlings are eaten by other marsh creatures, including other alligators. An average of 17 percent make it to four feet, growing about a foot a year. If there are fewer hatchlings, a larger percentage might grow up so that ,10 years down the road, the alligator harvest is the same as the previous year’s, Kinler said. In addition, Kinler said, he bases his recommendations on a five-year average, to level out the peaks and valleys. ‘It's not very good management practice - for the alligators, the person doing the harvest, or market conditions - to vary your harvest by 50 percent from one year to the next, ’ he said.

The reasons for the drop in alligator nests are, like the alligator’s reproductive cycle itself, complicated and not well understood, Kinler said. The heat is probably partly to blame. Biologists don't know why, but both extreme heat and extreme cold make alligators less likely to make it all the way through their reproductive cycles, Kinler said. As the brackish marsh dries, shallow ponds may vanish or lose so much water they become too salty for alligators. The female may not nest at all, or may travel to another area but then be too stressed to nest. It may throw their breeding cycles out of sync. Or they may not find male alligators. Even if there were a normal number of nests, low water makes it harder for crews on airboats to gather the eggs for alligator farms, said Hope Wester of Pelts and Skins, a Kenner company which does that . ‘The boats need a little water just to run. They're getting stuck in mud all the time, ’ she said. HERP NEWS 26 3/98 Staff College Version

MSNBC (USA) 18 Sept 98 Record-breaking gator caught Miami, FL: Here in Florida we are in the middle of Alligator hunting season. And this year, one licensed alligator hunter may have broken the state’s record for the largest alligator caught. This gator is close to 14-feet long, and weighs-in at more than 1,000 pounds. On Tuesday, someone turned him in to a licensed processor who plans to make leather goods out of the gator's hide. The monster alligator could soon show up in leather goods stores in the form of 20 belts and one suitcase.

Although alligator skins were sold in the Miami area for $7 each as early as 1800, today, through strict laws, alligators may only be harvested during very limited, control led hunts. If someone is lucky enough to win one of 500 annual alligator hunting permits issued through a lottery conducted by the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission, and are then lucky enough to actually capture an alligator, the caught alligator has to then be turned over - usually on ice - to a State-licensed alligator ‘processor’ who prepares the gator's skins for sale to leather tanneries throughout the world.

Prices for skins vary considerably from year to year but have averaged about $25 per foot over the past 10 years. The meat from alligators, either those caught in these highly regulated state hunts or those raised in captivity, is typically sold to restaurants and wholesalers for about $5 to $7 per pound. This multi-million dollar industry generates approximately 300,000 pounds of meat and 15,000 skins each year in the state of Florida. Alligator harvest areas are randomly assigned to each of the 500 permit winners based on their ranking of up to five areas on their harvest application.

The number of alligators each participant is permitted to take is determined following an evaluation of alligator surveys conducted during May by the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission. Based on last year’s quota, each participant this year will be permitted to take up to five or six alligators that are greater than four feet long. Each of the 500 permit winners are encouraged to complete a three-hour training and orientation program held in each of the Commission's five administrative regions in July and August. Selected applicants are also required to purchase an alligator trapping license by July 15. A license costs $250 for Florida residents and $1,000 for non-residents. Each selected applicant may also purchase-for $50 each-an alligator trapping license for up to three individuals (known as trapping ‘agents’) to assist in the taking of the alligators. Trapping agents will not be allowed to hunt independently of the applicant.

This year there were almost 7,000 requests for only 500 licenses. The alligator in South Florida's history The alligator is a living fossil, having survived from the time of the dinosaurs for more than 200 million years. Today, alligators are found throughout the Southeast, from the Carolinas to Texas and north to Arkansas. When Spanish explorers in the New World first saw the American alligator they called it ‘El Lagarto, ’ the lizard. In the 1770's, naturalist William Bartram, in exploring Florida's St. Johns River, was a little more descriptive about the alligators' population at that time when he wrote that ‘alligators are in such incredible numbers and so close together from shore to shore that it would have been easy to have walked across on their heads had the animals been harmless. ‘All that was to change though. Throughout the years the alligators' habitat shrunk as more and more humans moved into Florida. And their numbers dwindled so much as a result of over hunting that by 196 7 the alligator was listed as an endangered species (under a law that preceded the Endangered Species Act of 1973), meaning it was considered in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.

But a combined effort by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and state wildlife agencies in the south saved the alligator. The Endangered Species Act prohibited alligator hunting, allowing the species to rebound in numbers in many areas where it had been depleted. As the alligator began to make a comeback, states established alligator population monitoring programs and used this information to ensure alligator numbers continued to increase. In 1987, the Fish and Wildlife Service pronounced the American Alligator fully recovered and consequently removed the animal from the list of endangered species, and subsequently became the official state reptile of Florida.

Today alligators are classified as a threatened species because of their similarity in appearance to the American Crocodile, an endangered species. Prior to their legal protection, alligators were sold in pet stores and souvenirs shops as novelty items. Florida law now strictly protects alligators, and only specially licensed persons may possess a live alligator.

Thailand's Crocodile Tamer Dies BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) - After decades of defying death in crocodile shows, Thailand's famed crocodile hunter and tamer has died of lung disease at the age of 84, a spokesman for the Samut Prakan Crocodile Farm said today. Yuen Charoensuk, also known as Uncle Yao, died Saturday, said the farm’s public relations director, Thananya Chankrachang. He suffered from emphysema.

Hundreds of thousands of tourists had witnessed Yuen's shows since he began performing at the farm in 1973. He thrust his head inside a crocodile’s jaws in each act. Part Thai and part Vietnamese, Yuen learned to hunt and tame crocodiles from a Buddhist monk while visiting Cambodia during the 196 0s. According to local folklore, Uncle Yao used black magic to hunt and kill hundreds of dangerous crocodiles in Cambodia and Thailand.

Yeah Right. . .

*Weekly World News*, 29 Sept. 1998 , p. 41.

New York sewer alligators are on endangered animals list!

NEW YORK CITY- Those Florida alligators that wound up in the sewers hereafter being flushed down toilets as babies are dying out, experts say. The large reptiles- which were brought back by vacationers in the ‘6 0s- have been having difficulty reproducing in New York's sewer system, an increasingly hostile environment.

Alligators like to nest in mounds of decaying vegetation exposed to the sun, and this is impossible beneath the city streets, according to zoologists. The sewer gators have also been falling victim to disease. In the wild, their ancestors basked in the sun and this helped control parasites.

Another problem: Rising levels of sewer gas, hydrogen sulphide and volatile industrial chemicals have made survival for second- and third-generation `gators difficult. ‘Alligators and even rats would have difficulty surviving in New York's sewers today, ’ said a leading herpetologist. ‘I very much doubt that there are more than 20 alligators left. ‘

Loren: Very silly and very much appreciated. I see this tabloid is having fun at the expense of facts again. The sewer alligators, which really date from the 1930s, not the 1960s as per this ‘article, ’ probably died out long ago. Much enjoyment in seeing this piece of the lore.

The Importance of being Ernest. . . .

If only crocodiles could talk, then animal control officers in San Francisco said Friday they might know why they found one walking in the last. A woman in the Mission District called the Animal Care and Control Center Sunday to complain that an iguana was ‘staring’ at her cat. The officer who responded to the call discovered the lizard was a 3 1/2-foot-long crocodile. Capt. Vicky Guldbech said a man called the center claiming to be the owner of the 6 -year-old crocodile, named Ernest. The man said Ernest disappeared a few weeks ago while the man was moving. The man refused to give his name and has not collected the animal because owning a crocodile is illegal, punishable by up to six months in jail.

Stray San Francisco crocodile gets stay of execution

Ernest the crocodile, discovered last week wandering around SanFrancisco, won a last-minute stay of execution Tuesday when animal control experts found a possible new home for him. Officials at the San Francisco Animal Care and Control Center had planned to euthanize the reptile as early as Tuesday because they had no success in finding him a suitable living environment. However, Melissa Flower, a spokeswoman for the center, said Tuesday afternoon that Ernest’s execution was on hold because the center had received a lead on a possible new shelter. Ernest was found last week after a woman complained that an iguana was ‘staring’ at her cat.

‘Crocodile Attack in Dandenong

A 37-year-old man was lucky not to lose his arm last night after fighting off a crocodile in his back-yard in south-east Melbourne. The crocodile handler was tending his three crocodiles in a pond in his Dandenong backyard around 9pm and put his hand into the pond to fix the filter, police said. A 1. 3 metre crocodile took the opportunity to grab a snack and leapt from the water to grab his arm. The crocodile tried to roll the man but he broke free after hitting it on the head. ‘

Reported Reptile Likely a Gator-Like Caiman Monster, or Hoax, in Lake?

‘We have enough reliable sightings that we believe it is not a hoax. We need to have a more definitive sighting to make sure it is still there. ’ Judy Montero By Robert Weller A. P. Denver, 21 Aug 1998 . First came a few frightening rumors: Ducks were disappearing from placid Grassmere Lake, people had seen something that looked like an alligator‹even police saw a large wake on the water. Experts said sonar readings indicated the animal was likely to be a caiman smaller than its relative, the alligator, but just as mean. Reporters headed to the scene, TV stations gave live updates, disc jockeys staged stunts. Then an anonymous fax was sent to news organisations, saying the whole thing was a hoax aimed at showing how easy it is to fool the media. Nevertheless, the next day‹Thursday‹city workers began draining the lake to catch the elusive creature‹if it exists. ‘We have enough reliable sightings that we believe it is not a hoax, ’ Parks spokeswoman Judy Montero said. ‘We need to have a more definitive sighting to make sure it is still there, ’ she said Thursday afternoon. A Pawned-Off Pet? Officials speculated someone bought the caiman for a pet and, when it grew too big for a backyard pool, dumped it in the lake in Washington Park, in a tree-lined, upper-class neighborhood in south Denver. Montero said experts say the critter could have found a place to hide in the 8- to 10-foot-deep water or a small island in the south end of the lake. While waiting for the lake to drain, which could take a week, reptile experts are building a trap. If it was just an attempt to get attention, it worked. Warning signs advised people and pets to stay out of the lake. Both Denver daily newspapers launched contests inviting the public to name the creature. Radio and television crews broadcast live updates from the scene. One announcer even waded into the water with steaks duct-taped to a leg. Another station sent a busty woman in an alligator suit, carrying a bottle of wine to try to lure the creature out. A Cajun restaurant served free gator tail to visitors along the shore. Alligator farm experts were paid to flush it out, but their net came up empty.

‘The timing of the Washington Park caiman story is no coincidence, ’ one said. ‘that this hoax would share headlines with the crisis in the Clinton White House only serves to underscore the real crisis confronting America - the trivialization of its media, once a shining light of liberty. . . ’ The fax, sent from an office supply store, also said an inflatable alligator could be found in any toy store. It promised a news conference Thursday at the lake, but no one showed except reporters. A taxi driver dropped off an envelope, but it was empty. Life was pretty much back to normal along the lake Thursday with joggers, bicyclists and mothers pushing strollers in the bright afternoon sun. The hordes of binocular-toting visitors, some who had come in camouflage, had disappeared. A group of senior citizens, on a weekly 25-mile bicycle tour, pulled up to see how the search was going. ‘I think he’s slicker than Clinton, ’ said Norm Nickolay, 6 9, of Lakewood. ‘Nobody¹s going to catch him. ‘

Yahoo! News California Headlines Friday 2 Oct 1998

Kids Find Alligator In Creek - (OAKDALE) - A museum has agreed to adopt and care for a small alligator found by children playing near a creek in Oakdale. News of the Florida-like discovery spread quickly through the Stanislaus County town. The 'gator will go on display next week.

Yahoo! News, Texas: Wed 30 Sept 1998

Gator Shows Up Looking For A Snack - (VICTORIA) - Animal control officers in Victoria says he didn't have to go far to find this stray. A hungry alligator showed up as employees arrived for work at the Victoria Animal Shelter. The seven-foot-long reptile apparently was aware of other critters inside and was looking for a meal. It took three workers more than 20-minutes to subdue the gator. He was removed by Department of Parks and Wildlife game warden and returned to the wild.

Alligators surf storm flood

Yahoo! News: 28 Sep 1998 (Reuters) - Hurricane Georges brought a taste of the wild to Miami beach in the shape of a giant alligator that surfed in from the Everglades through storm-flooded canals.

‘We've had an influx of alligators riding the currents into town, ’ said trapper Todd Hardwick, whose company, Pesky Critters Wildlife Control , removes nuisance gators under contract with the state.

Police spotted the nine-foot eight-inch bull gator splashing around off the Rickenbacker Causeway that links Miami and Key Biscayne. They shooed away swimmers and windsurfers who had flocked to the causeway beach after hunkering inside for several days as the hurricane moved over.

Hardwick roped the animal's neck and middle but gave up trying to wrestle it aboard a police boat when it tried to take a bite out of the fibreglass vessel.

‘We ended up putting the gator back in the water and literally swimming him in to the beach, ’ Hardwick said. He taped the alligator's jaws shut, hoisted it into his truck with a winch and hauled it away to be destroyed, as state wildlife officials require when alligators over four-foot long wander into populated areas.

Although Sept is usually a lethargic season for alligators, wildlife officers have had a flurry of gator complaints in the last week. Hardwick, the state's licensed trapper for the Miami and Fort Lauderdale area, caught an 11-foot gator in a residential community near the Miami airport and a nine-footer near a highway toll plaza last week.

Alligators generally avoid people, preferring the solitude of the Everglades west of the heavily populated coastal areas.

But Miami has had 10 to 12 inches of rain in the last few weeks and Hurricane Georges gave the region another good soaking on Friday. For the last 10 days, water managers have opened all the flood control gates in the region's canals, sluicing excess water out into the ocean.

‘With the floodgates open that gives the gators a free ride into town. They over-swim the canals and lakes and go sneaking through backyards, ’ Hardwick said.

The one captured on Sunday was especially dangerous because it was blind in one eye, increasing the chances an unwary swimmer could have startled the animal. ‘His first instinct is going to be to spring and snap at you, ’ Hardwick said.

Florida has about one million alligators and 14 million human residents, with developers increasingly encroaching on alligator habitat. Hardwick said he had received more than 100 complaints involving alligators in populated areas so far this year.

Crocodiles surprise tourists.

27 August 1998 Reuters: GUADALAJARA, Mexico.

Two stray crocodiles caught bathers by surprise at a Mexican seaside resort Wednesday when they crawled out of a river onto a beach and took a swim in the ocean, officials said.

Police officer Hugo Guzman said reports of crocodile sightings in the resort of Puerto Vallarta were first received shortly after midday. Measuring about a meter (yard) in length, the reptiles sent beachgoers fleeing and provoked a major hunt by authorities.

Officials said they apparently swam up the Cuale river, which passes through the center of the popular holiday spot and has its source in near by hills, and then entered the saltwater bay of Vallarta. They later returned to the river.

Officials said crocodiles were sometimes sighted on the outskirts of Puerto Vallarta, where there is marshland. ‘We've never had an accident with these animals before, ’ said Guzman. ‘It's just that today they walked off the beaten path and left the area they normally stay in. ‘

Anglers Snag Surprise Catch

(BURLINGTON) - An Illinois angler is holding on to his ‘prize’ catch from the Mississippi River near Burlington. . . at least for a few days. Steve Jockisch of Saint Augustine and a friend were fishing along the river when he spied. . . and caught. . . a two-and-a-half foot alligator. Jockisch says the alligator is at his home. . . residing in a tank of water. . . living on hot dogs and crawfish until a Burlington pet store owner comes to take the toothy reptile away. Iowa Wednesday 16 Sept 1998 // 5:15 AM EDT Yahoo State News

In sun-drenched Tuscany, meanwhile, the saga of Salvatore the alligator continued.

It began with a couple taking their razor-toothed pet for a walk on the cool banks of a little Tuscan lake. But the alligator slipped off its leash - and into the inviting waters of little Lake Accesa.

Nearly three weeks later, the beast - estimated by its tracks to be at least a few feet long - is still on the loose.

Salvatore has eluded forest rangers, police officers, hunters and a military helicopter.

City officials in near by Grosseto have appealed for Salvatore’s owners to come forward and lend a hand in the search, but to no avail.

‘All we know is that it was a couple, ’ said Mini Cucci, a city official.

Swimming has been banned in the lake since Aug. 10, the day a German tourist saw the alligator escape its owners, Cucci said.

Brothers, Since it's summer time and some of us are taking vacations and others live in places where there are alligators, I thought it would be appropriate to review our Alligator Etiquette. 1. Absolutely do not feed or annoy the alligators. 2. Keep your pet on a leash. Do not throw objects in the water for your dog to retrieve. 3. Keep at least 30 feet from an alligator - do not assume they are slow-moving. 4. Do not swim in nor wade into any water containing alligators. 5. If an alligator goes after a fish you have caught, cut the line and let the alligator have the fish. 6 . Avoid any alligator sunning itself in the middle of a hiking trail or on a lake/river bank. 7. Stay clear of piles of grasses, twigs, and/or soil near the side of a trail; it may be a nest and the mother alligator is probably close by guarding it. 8. If an alligator opens its mouth and hisses, you have come to close. Retreat slowly; make no quick moves. Keep your eyes on the alligator. 9. If an alligator is chasing you, remember, all you have to do is out run your companions; the alligator will take whoever is in last place and let the remainder of you go. Follow this advice and your vacation in Alligator Territory will be much more peaceful and enjoyable. Thank you. Dan Decker 432 AMS, Udorn, 1970

Hurricane unleashes a pack of alligators

Sept 29, 1998. Associated Press

MOSS POINT, Miss. (AP) — Sit on the side of Highway 90 and watch the debris from Hurricane Georges float by. There’s a car, and a trailer, a refrigerator and, oh, a 12-foot alligator.

The gators floated over the chain link fence at the Gulf Coast Gator Ranchjust east of Pascagoula. But there was Robert Key wading up to his chest in water, pushing a boat full of files and computer equipment from his contracting office.

‘Can't worry right now, I've got too much stuff I've got to get out, ’ he said as he reached the highway. ‘They won't bite me no way. Too tough. ‘

In fact, this happens just about every time it floods. Still, it's jarring to be driving along the road and see the yellow eyes of a 12-foot gator peering out from under the slime.

‘They don't look too aggressive, ’ said Kathy Perkins, who moved to Moss Point from North Carolina in February and had never seen an alligator before. ‘But I ain't going to get close. ‘

‘They're more afraid of you than you are of them — unless you get close to them when they're hungry, ’ said Marie Ladnier, who was watching the circling beasts from the side of the road.

The entrance to the farm was flooded, the water ominously close to a sign that read: ‘Gates Open at 1 o'clock. ‘ Some workers in a flat boat said they were too busy to talk, except to say about 30 gators had escaped. But Kelvin Stork, chief of the Fort Lake/Franklin Creek Volunteer Fire Department, said he didn't believe that . A brochure for the farm at a local hotel advertises ‘thousands of gators at the Gulf Coast's oldest farm!’

‘Shudder deliciously as a scaly brute rolls the water only inches away: marvel at the engineering feat of the beavers; and enjoy the beauty of the flora and fauna of the marsh, ’ the pamphlet reads. ‘When you ride in one of John Hudson's airboats, you don't simply see the natural habitat of the alligators. ‘

Josefina Hudson, the owner's wife, said he has been trying to keep the gators from crossing the road.

‘We're very much worried, ’ she said from the couple's home in near by Mobile, Ala. ‘But we can't do anything until the water goes down. ‘

Stork was too busy worrying about people stranded in homes across the highway to worry about the gators. He didn't know of anyone but the farm workers trying to round them up.

‘There’s nowhere to put them if they do, ’ he said. ‘I heard there’s a couple thousand of them in there that 's loose. ‘

David Wright of Pascagoula said people might not be too worried now — but give it time.

‘In a couple of weeks, they'll start getting up into people's yards and eating their cats and dogs, ’ he said. ‘Next month there’s going to be chaos. ‘

TRUCK HITS GATOR

09/14/98 TAVARES, Fla. (AP)

It was a close encounter that Jim Mock won't soon forget. Mock, 68, learned a painful lesson when he slammed his truck into a 12-foot alligator. The impact was so severe it sent Mock's pickup airborne into an oncoming vehicle.

‘I really didn't see it coming, ’ Mock, who is now recovering at home, said Monday. ‘It was so big it just looked like a tree. ‘

Mock, of Umatilla, was on Lake Eustis Drive Sept. 2 when the gator lunged into the roadway. Mock's Chevrolet S-10 truck hit the gator and careened into the opposite lane, hitting another vehicle head on before going onto the shoulder of the road. Mock shattered a femur, knee cap and tibia, and broke his heel bone and toe. He spent almost four hours in surgery.

The other driver, Clayton Blanchard Jr. , 40, suffered a fractured arm.

The wounded gator remained in the roadway, lunging at anyone who tried to help it, said Mock’s son, Lake County sheriff's Sgt. Jim Mock Jr. , who was at the scene of the crash within minutes.

‘I've seen little bitty gators hit in the road before, but never one this size, ’ he said.

Tavares police officers eventually shot the alligator, which tipped the scales at 475 pounds.

Alligator leads to swimming ban

ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH - Aug 13, 1998

An alligator is keeping swimmers out of Lake Accesa in Italy. A German tourist reported seeing a couple walking the reptile on a leash beside the lake Monday, local officials said. The alligator managed to slip free and, the couple, after searching in vain, got into a car and drove off. The mayor of the near by Tuscan town of Massa Marittima, 55 miles southwest of Florence, signed an order Tuesday banning swimming ‘until such time as bathers' safety can be assured. ‘ Forestry wardens and police were called in to search the area.