Gator wrestling added to troopers’ resumés

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 1, 2008


Staff Reporter

DESTREHAN – Louisiana State Police patrolling Interstate 10 over the Bonnet Carre Spillway in St. Charles Parish are usually occupied by tailgaters, but troopers working Tuesday morning were called out to contend with a gator tail.

With the help of St. Charles Wildlife Nuisance Control Officer Kenny Schmill, a 5-foot alligator was removed from the eastbound lanes of the roadway after allegedly falling from a truck.

The rogue reptile, which was spotted heading eastbound on I-10 near mile marker 217 around 7:15 a.m. Tuesday, tied up traffic for miles as troopers worked for about an hour to corral it and remove it from the road, said Senior Trooper Joseph Piglia.

Piglia said responding troopers initially thought the alligator was dead because it had crossed into the path of an oncoming vehicle. As it turns out, it was just angry.

“They tell me it snapped at them when they approached,” said Piglia. “It was very much alive.”

Although the gator survived the run-in with the car, Schmill, a licensed gator trapper, said he had to euthanize it because of its injuries.  

“When I got there it was very disoriented and walking in circles,” said Schmill of the gator. “Its front legs were broken and it had a tire mark across its back. By the time I got him out of there, he was pretty much gone.”

Piglia said first responders were not sure if the gator had fallen from a truck, been placed in the road as a prank or just walked seven miles up the interstate highway from the nearest onramp. Schmill said the gator was definitely farm raised because it had identification tags on its toes and tail. He said he is working with Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries to determine where the alligator came from.

Bo Boehringer, press secretary for Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries, said his office has determined that the gator was probably being transported from a farm to the habitat it originally came from when it managed to get loose. He said most farms in the area use cattle trucks or pickups to transport the grown alligators, which are usually secured in large burlap sacks.

“Most gator ranchers have deals with landowners who have habitats where the reptiles can be raised, and eggs can be harvested,” said Boehringer. “The ranchers have an agreement that says they must return roughly 14 percent of their marketable alligator crop. This alligator just got loose before it could be returned.”

Boehringer said it is unclear which farm the gator came from or where it was going when it fell off the truck.