Texas game wardens wrap up alligator attack investigation
An Orange County resident will face no charges for killing an alligator that killed a Missouri man in Orange.
Texas game wardens have completed their investigation into an alligator attack that resulted in the death of Tommie Woodward, 28, of St. Louis, Missouri. Investigators concluded that the unprecedented circumstances of the case, believed to be the first fatal alligator attack in Texas on record, warrant no further action, according to a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department press release.
The alligator suspected of attacking Woodward was killed by a resident who told investigators he acted out of concern for the safety of his family and others. Game wardens issued a warning citation to the resident for the illegal take of the alligator; his identity is being withheld since no criminal charges were filed.
“This was a truly horrific tragedy that unfortunately became compounded by the actions of an individual who felt compelled to take matters into his own hands for the safety of his family and others,” said Colonel Craig Hunter, Law Enforcement Director for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
Shortly before 3 a.m. on Friday, July 3, Texas game wardens were notified by officers of the Orange Police Department about a possible alligator attack and missing person at Burkart’s Marina, 1802 Mississippi on Adams Bayou, according to an OPD report.
Upon arrival on the scene at 2:39 am, officers were advised that a male and female were swimming in the bayou. The Orange County Sheriff’s Department also responded to the scene with a boat.
Captain Robert Enmon of the OPD said Woodward suffered severe trauma when he was attacked by the alligator.
Game wardens recovered Woodard’s body from the creek about two hours later. A game warden crew searched the area nightly throughout the weekend for a large, aggressive alligator with no success.
Mid-afternoon Monday, July 6, game wardens received a call that a large alligator carcass had been dropped at the marina boat ramp near where the attack had occurred days earlier. A subsequent examination confirmed it to be the alligator responsible for the attack on Woodard.
Game wardens then began searching for the person(s) responsible for the illegal harvest of the alligator, a Class C misdemeanor offense carrying a maximum fine of $500. On Tuesday, game wardens made contact with a resident who admitted he killed the alligator out of concern for the safety of others.
“In no way do we condone the killing of a nuisance alligator without proper authority. Either Texas game wardens or a licensed nuisance alligator hunter would have been more appropriate to handle the situation. Either way, because of its aggressive behavior, the alligator would have to be killed,” said Hunter. “If there is a positive that can come out of this case, it’s an educational opportunity for us to reinforce to the public not to feed or disturb alligators and that there are proper procedures for handling nuisance alligators.”
More information about alligators, including safety tips and steps for dealing with a nuisance alligator, can be found on the TPWD website at http://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/wild/species/alligator/safety/index.phtml.
Don’t feed the alligators
Phillip Ledoux, an Orange County based game warden with TPWD, asked the public to quit feeing alligators by any means.
Crabbers, moreover, should dispose of their crab bait and/or cut their bait lines when departing.
Ledoux said he often finds the alligators hung on crab lines on Bailey Road in Bridge City.
“This is a big problem across the county. It’s dangerous (to feed the alligators) and it’s against the law,” he said. “It’s a Class C misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $500.
“It’s nesting season for alligators and females will protect their nests. Males are usually hands-off (around the nests). It’s not isolated to Burkart’s; it’s for any restaurant or marina where people can interact with alligators.”
Ledoux said this will help alleviate many problems by not feeding the alligators.
“Alligators prefer not to have anything to do with people,” he said. “When people feed them, they lose fear of people. They’re looking for a meal. If you’re out walking around and you step on it (an alligator), it will defend itself. Their bite is extremely quick and with a great deal of pressure. They can turn around quickly too.”