East Texas game wardens say they've solved one of their most complex poaching cases. Three months ago, an alligator was lured from his natural habitat and killed. The gator was living in a swampy area between Henderson and Troup in Rusk County. Earlier this week, a teenager and a 20-year old were charged in the animal's slaying.
"The older individual shot the alligator with a high powered pistol ...the juvenile helped bring it to shore, where they removed the tail," explains Captain Larry Hand with Texas Parks and Wildlife.
Locals in the area were familiar with the alligator, says Hand. They named the reptile "Big-Al" and often visited his pond, feeding him raw chickens. It seems that behavior may have contributed to Big-Al's demise. Wildlife officials do not endorse feeding wildlife or interacting with them in any fashion. If an alligator invades a person's private property, residents should call Game Wardens to remove them, says Hand. And even if an alligator seems docile, authorities say feeding them is dangerous.
In the latest case, it appears humans crossed the line. The poachers cut off the alligator's head and tail and left both at the scene. Neither had a hunters permit and were hunting off-season. A bullet pulled from the gators body helped authorities tie him to the suspects.
"These cases are handled like they're homicides," says Hand. And this time investigators had something new on their hands. A wildlife crime stoppers program called "Operation Game Thief," provided reward posters for them to post in surrounding counties. Three months after the posters went up, the right tip came in.
A 20-year old charged with the poaching pled no contest and paid a $1500 fine. The juvenile has yet to go before a judge.