Fisherman in Virginia charged with killing alligator

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Friday, July 22, 2005

File photo of an alligator. Source: Wikicommons

A Virginia man who allegedly clubbed to death an alligator he hooked while fishing, is under consideration by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Richmond for destroying a “threatened species”. But according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service web page of delisted species on the Endangered Species Act, the American alligator was removed from the list in 1987. The reason cited for its removal was the species had recovered.

Fisherman Max Belle reportedly used an oar to bring into submission the 44-inch-long, 9 pound creature when he brought it to the boat. Belle was fishing on the Chesterfield County Falling Creek Reservoir, where the alligator was first sighted in May.

An alligator is not a native species in the mid-Atlantic region of the USA, and it is thought that it was released by someone who once kept it as a pet.U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) employee attempts to capture and relocate it were unsuccessful. The native habitat of the alligator is in regions of the Southeast, starting from the Carolinas and moving southwards to Texas.

The fisherman’s attorney, David P. Baugh, said area residents surrounding the reservoir are happy the alligator is gone. Referring to the support for Mr. Belle of reservoir neighbors, he said, "... next time they [USDA] will ask to hire Mr. Belle to come catch the alligator." His client received a court summons Thursday and is prepared to pay a $300 fine and $50 court costs if he is found guilty of the federal misdemeanor crime.

It took investigators two weeks to positively identify the toothy crocodile as an American alligator, (Alligator mississippiensis).

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