Possumhaw: Alligator looking for a home



Shannon Bardwell



"Looking for a home, I ain't got no home, I ain't got no home-boss, I ain't got no home."


from "Boll Weevil," by Bobby Bare




Standing on the porch overlooking the small pond I see reeds on the far side lying on the surface of the water. At least I think they're reeds; I go inside and get the binoculars. Yes, it's reeds. I sigh and scan the water again. There are two lakes here in the Prairie, the large one we call the "lake" and the small one the "pond." It's the small one I'm looking over. It's the one with the swamp irises lining the perimeter. The irises are beautiful in the spring, ringing the pond in a bright spring yellow, but now the blooms are gone and the reeds are thick, providing cover for the alligator. A week ago, we saw an alligator in both the pond and the lake. The Prairie lake has no cover except for the dock. It could have been the same alligator. The alligator could have crossed from the field and through the yard by the light of the moon. Alligators are more active from dusk to dawn. It's a bit unnerving to think of alligators crossing over the yard while you sleep comfortably in your bed.


Alligators are native to the southeastern states and, though not endangered, they are protected. The big-eyed leathery reptiles are considered a necessary part in the "sheer ecological balance" of our world. The hunting of alligators is legal within the proper season and with the proper permits and license. Alligator season in our area opened Aug. 31 and closes Sept. 9. Otherwise, it is illegal to take, capture, kill, hunt or otherwise mess with an alligator without a permit. That includes private lands, like our lakes and our alligators. There is provision for removal of a "nuisance" alligator, but an alligator doing what an alligator does is not considered a nuisance -- unlike the alligator in Clearwater, Florida, that last May crashed into a homeowner's kitchen breaking four bottles of a very fine wine and doing other damage. That was a real nuisance.


Alligators are more active in warm weather though they can tolerate some degree of colder temperatures. During the warm season juveniles often disperse into new territories as would seem to be the case here. It's encouraging to know that alligators do not typically attack humans but rather hide themselves unless they are being fed, which is illegal in Mississippi. Ours must feed on bream, maybe small bass, and worms and snails, though the size of the food will increase with the size of the alligator. Should an alligator show any interest at all in our pets we would have ourselves a bonafide nuisance. Oddly enough, Harry and Wilhelmina, the cats, have steered clear of the lakes lately. Harry no longer walks with me to feed the ducks and neither cat spends time lying on the bridge over the spillway watching the water. I always said Harry was a lot like Sam -- he could spend hours on end looking at the water. In fact, Sam was looking at the water from atop his tractor when he spotted a 5-foot alligator in a neighbor's lake -- also protected.


Rules and regulations on alligator hunting can be found at mdwfp.com.



Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.


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