Remember back when all the major news organizations descended upon the Eastern and Gulf seaboards where there was more than a square foot of sand and reported that marauding packs of sharks had declared open season on unsuspecting tourists trying to enjoy a garden-variety seaside vacation? I was reminded of this media feeding frenzy during the days following the recent alligator attack at Lake Moultrie.
By all accounts, the victim was very deliberate in his choice of swimming spots and proactive in his awareness of any aquatic dangers, including alligators. As we all know, the best preparations cannot avert all catastrophes. But I am happy to relate that our intrepid water sports enthusiast is recovering, albeit minus an arm.
Last week, The State published a story detailing a plan to resubmit legislation in the upcoming session that would allow a public hunting season in "any game zone where alligators occur." In 1964, South Carolina banned such public hunts in the face of declining population numbers for the reptiles. Since then, alligators have rebounded spectacularly, keeping apace with the equally staggering rate of real estate development in the Palmetto State.
On average, the state Department of Natural Resources or commercial varmint hunters dispose of roughly 300 nuisance alligators annually. Meanwhile, the proposed bill would have South Carolina join most of the old Confederacy in meeting the residential comfort levels of the new Yankee invaders and their tract houses in what used to be "the sticks."
Exceptions to the 1964 ban on gator hunts were enacted in 1995 for large holdings property owners and again in 2005 for the aforementioned tract housing developments. I guess somebody's grandmother got really upset when Fifi bought the farm in her new retirement community with the nice walking trails and other back-to-nature amenities.
Sen. Glenn McConnell (R-Chas) told The State, "The alligator problem is getting worse, and I'm getting increased complaints... I have been going to Lake Moultrie since I was little — over 50 years. Now gators swim in areas where people have been for decades."
Uh Glenn, I got news for you. The alligators were there first.
What's up with people invading the Great Outdoors and then getting bent out of shape when nature bites back?
McConnell wants it both ways too. He'd like to include legal protections for people without a hunting license who happen to kill an alligator when they feel threatened by a dangerous animal.
Having been chased by an alligator on the Shadowmoss Plantation golf course when I was a teenager, I can appreciate what McConnell is trying to do. However, given the propensity for some folks to combine the idiot factor with easy access to weapons in this country, I suspect the "cracker" demographic will be encouraged to go all Sea Hunt on unsuspecting animals.
Take what happened last week to Big Al, a 4 1/2-foot alligator that called Johns Island Park home. Over the years, Al had been trained by visitors to come to the bank for food. The animal lost any sort of apprehension it had about approaching people. But about four weeks ago, some numbskull or skulls shot an arrow into Al neck and left him to die. When he was captured, the wound was discovered to be infected, and Al was euthanized.
I'd like to join McConnell in wanting it both ways too. The nitwits that thought they were just feeding Big Al ought to face stiff fines for essentially leading the animal to its demise.
If you're as appalled as I was over the senseless abuse of Big Al and know something about it, call the DNR's hotline at 1-800-922-5431.