We are sure there were readers of this newspaper or visitors to robesonian.com surprised to learn last week that there are in fact alligators in Robeson County. Plenty of them.
Sadly, there is one less since a week ago today when an alligator estimated to be 50 years old was slaughtered on N.C. 211 in the Allenton community because of a whole lot of ignorance.
Alligators, the largest reptile in the United States, are not rare in North Carolina coastal regions and can be found as far north as Albemarle Sound. They are a protected species in North Carolina, which means they can’t be shot indiscriminately.
But that didn’t save the 9-foot-long, 350-pound alligator that wondered onto N.C. 211 on Sunday, drawing a crowd whose curiosity essentially killed the gator.
The story of exactly what happened remains unclear, but it seems the alligator was trying to cross the highway on a warm afternoon, perhaps in search of a mate, when he was surrounded and denied a safe retreat. An Animal Control officer from Robeson County responded, but was unable to immediately contact the game warden in Robeson County. An N.C. Wildlife Commission officer in Hoke County was contacted and — here is the confusing part — mistakenly relayed a message that it was OK to put down the animal, apparently believing the animal had already been mortally injured.
The Animal Control officer, Timothy Mason, shot the animal with a .22-caliber rifle. But that didn’t kill it, a task that was left to the N.C. Wildlife Commission officer from Robeson County who arrived late and dispatched the animal with a shotgun.
Bill Smith, the director of the county Health Department, has said Mason had no business answering the call, that Animal Control is limited to cats and dogs and threats of rabies. Mason, who had gained a reputation in this county as being trigger happy, resigned a few days later.
Today’s Our View is a string on the finger for readers to remember that alligators are seldom aggressive and in fact are pretty clumsy on land, not so much in the water. Their threat to humans is mostly imagined.
If you see an alligator, the best decision is to leave it alone. If it poses a threat, then call the N.C. Wildlife Commission, which will dispatch an officer who most likely will have the animal captured and relocated.
There are plenty of alligators in the vast swamplands of Robeson County, yet it’s rare that we hear of encounters with humans, which testifies to the creatures’ willingness to remain reclusive. Unfortunately, when alligators do come into contract with human beings, way too often they are the losers.
Less ignorance could change that.