Roughly 15,000 inquisitive folks have read my three blog posts on why, how, and where wild alligators are headed into Virginia...assuming (for a moment) that they aren't there already. Read them here:
One: Refuting the Baseless Claims that Wild Alligators Do Not - And Cannot - Live in Virginia
Two: Analysis of Potential Alligator Habitat North of the VA-NC Border
Three: Analysis of Virginia Areas Where Wild Alligators Are Most Likely to Settle and be Left Alone
So what's the deal with this topic, and who cares? In a nutshell, the American Alligator came off of federally threatened listing about 15 years ago. In various parts of its range (Virginia to Texas), it is protected, or hunted, or reviled, or revered. Managing the South's apex wetland predator (besides panthers, which are functionally extinct) is a tall task, in other words. And the name of the game with such wildlife management tasks is too often to pretend that something doesn't exist, because federal and state law require a certain set of expensive, tedious actions if a wildlife agency acknowledges that such a species is, indeed, present within their jurisdiction.
We know that released alligators (I make the distinction between them and wild gators for a variety of reasons) can live for several years in wetland and open water habitats in eastern Virginia - perhaps as far north as Richmond. We know that just a dozen miles south of the VA-NC line, wild alligators are successfully reproducing. And we know, from reports by hunters, boaters, and other outdoorsfolk, that mature wild alligators spend some summer days in nights in Virginia water bodies that drain to North Carolina. So, perhaps you'd like to see what the Virginia Department of Game and Fisheries has to say about alligators, in their own words:
1) The alligator is legally a non-native reptile, no different than a Chinese bullfrog
2) Rabbit predators include alligators (but not in Virginia)
3) "Here in Virginia, we don't have any alligators"
4) Alligators are not native or naturalized to Virginia
5) Alligators are exotic and undesirable to the Commonwealth of Virginia
6) "I don't believe there's a connection"
All this being the case, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries has actually got me. Why? I can't spend endless days beating back canebrake and trying to look for the northernmost alligator nest in North America, just to prove it has successfully migrated into Virginia, just to make VDGIF look dumb (although, they've done a good job of that with the above quotes).
|Photo from Let Them Eat Meat|
Here's where I'd like you to go click and send Jack a few dollars for the requisite travel expenses. Do it. Just a little cash.
Why does Jack think it's worthwhile?
There is still no solid proof that they are here in Virginia. State and federal officials deny that it is even possible. But it is also a fact that nobody has gone out to deliberately look for them.
What difference does it make whether there are gators in Virginia? Plenty. This would provide evidence that global warming has already changed this ecosystem with the arrival of a new top predator. And if there are alligators here then we're going to have to decide what our relationship is going to be with them. Are they invasive, or a native species naturally returning to its ancient range? Will they be removed or protected? None of the policy-makers will even have this conversation until we know for sure that the alligators have arrived.
So donate a little money, and let's see where this goes, shall we?