AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – More and more alligator sightings are happening across the CSRA. Even though the reptile may be scary for some, capturing and killing it without the proper paperwork is illegal.
The other night, a man with the proper documentation captured a 10 ft, 360 pound gator downtown on Gordon Highway.
While the gator sighting might be a shock for some, it’s actually quite common. We caught up with Savannah Riverkeeper Tonya Bonitatibus. She told us gators have always been in the area since she can remember and the only time you should be concerned is when they are chasing you.
The captured gator story starts Monday night. That’s when Robert Amerson was out with a Richmond County Sheriff’s Office deputy patrolling. But they were not looking for bad guys.
“We were actually out looking around for some gators for some of the veterans that had tags,” said Amerson, who runs Southeastern Veterans Hunt Association.
It’s not unusual to find Amerson out on the prowl for alligators. He runs Southeastern Veterans Hunt Association where he connects those who served in the military with animals they can prey and capture.
Just look at the 10 foot – 360 pound gator one of his vets caught on Gordon Highway in Molly Pond.
Amerson said a man kayaking called police and reported the gator was coming after him.
“First thing, I called Trey,” he told us. “I started going through my phone trying to figure out who had tags. So, I called him and I asked him how soon can you get here.”
Trey Durant, a veteran in the group, hung up the phone and arrived right away.
“Once Trey got there, that’s when we sat some hooks in him. Any time you kill a gator with a tag it has to be hooked, harpooned or shot with a bow. He has to be attached to something,” Amerson explained adding that there are only about 80 tags given out through a lottery system to help decrease the population of gators.
The final blow, he said, was a shot behind the gator’s head to severed his spine. Amerson said it took the men more than an hour to get the reptile out of the water and into their truck. It’s a process that can only be done if you have a permit. Otherwise, it’s illegal.
“If the alligator is actively coming after you and trying to eat you then you have the right to defend yourself,” Bonitatibus said.
Seeing those teeth and scales can be quite scary, but it’s not rare in the Augusta area.
“The fact that we have gators is not what’s concerning,” the Riverkeeper said. “The fact that one was following the kayak is what’s concerning because that means the gator has been fed.”
The Riverkeeper explained how parks are growing and that’s why people are seeing gators more and we over hunted them in the past and now they are rebounding. She said they walk, especially when it rains, so it’s not uncommon to see them on a highway.
Typically, people would not be on a gator’s menu. So, do not feed them and remember that it’s illegal to kill them without a tag.
Amerson told us the gator was taken to a local processor to be cut up for food.
We also spoke with the man who first spotted the alligator on his kayak, Bo Storey. He said:
“Yes, I’m glad it was me and I was able to get away and not a little kid. I have fished around gators my whole life [and] never had that happen before. I’m ok with the outcome and hope it never happens again. And I hope everyone can learn from what has happened to me and be aware of their surroundings and know that not all gators act that way. “Bo Storey on his experience with seeing a gator while kayaking.