The Great Smoky Mountains are home to many unique species, including the Smoky Madtom, lungless salamanders and one lonely little alligator. Recently, a Tennessee wildlife officer removed a baby gator from a pond in Bradley County, where the little guy was enjoying a swim.
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency released a photo of the incident on Facebook. Wildlife Officer Dillon Maynard smiled with the captured reptile resting in his hands. Some users questioned why the alligator had both his mouth and his arms taped. Despite the speculations, the reptile isn’t in pain. In fact, this is a necessary precaution. Temporarily tying its limbs protect both handlers from the sharp claws and the animal from hurting itself. The alligator now resides peacefully in the Chatanooga Zoo.
See the full Facebook post below.
Likely, the sighting was the result of a resident improperly releasing a pet into the wild. Oftentimes, pet owners of less domesticated animals like reptiles or rodents will release their animals outdoors. This could be because they’ve grown too large for their cages or their humans have simply grown tired of them. Sadly, these animals often don’t survive on their own because they’ve become accustomed to the provisions their people provided and are unable to find sufficient food sources, shelter and protection from predators on their own.
Tennesee Sees Increase in Alligator Sightings
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency assured Bradley County natives that the officers did not remove the alligator from its natural habitat. According to the US Geological Survey, gators are not native to Tennessee. Rather, the American species likes to stay closer to the coast from North Carolina to Florida to central Texas.
Still, this doesn’t rule out the possibility that the scaly reptiles aren’t expanding their territory into the neighboring state. In fact, the TWRA Hunting and Trapping Guide for the 2020-2021 season even mentioned the growing number of alligator and cougar sightings within the past few years.
“There is evidence cougars and alligators are expanding their territories into Tennessee,” the guide read.
But don’t call the cast of Swamp People just yet. The booklet also mentions that these species are illegal to hunt in Tennessee.
“Species expanding their ranges into Tennessee are protected and may not be taken until a hunting season is proclaimed,” the TWRA included in the guide. “Alligators and cougars are protected by state laws in Tennessee.”
Whether the gator in Bradley County was a pet or not, its presence points to an important issue one way or the other. On one hand, a neglectful pet owner could be perpetuating the problem of releasing domesticated pets into the wild. On the other, the state could be seeing drastic changes in its waters within the coming years.