Alligators and the Pearl River, a symbiotic relationship

Special to SW Rankin News

Randy Newell joined the Pearl Police Department in 2016. Prior to that time, he was employed by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and Parks, for approximately twenty-five years. So it stands to reason, that in addition to his regular duties as PPD patrolman, occasionally he will be asked to assist Pearl Animal Control with wild animal captures, especially those of the reptilian kind.

In fact, since his tenure with PPD he has assisted with the capture and release of some where between 20 to 25 alligators. Newell explains that “when you are this close to the pearl river and all of your creeks and tributaries you're libel to get a call that there is a motorist on I-20, and there is an alligator crossing in the middle of the HWY [or] you get a call 'hey theres an alligator laying in the middle of HWY 80 you've got to get out there pretty don't want anybody to get hurt in a situation like that.” From his experience alligators can and will pop up anywhere, “I promise you, anywhere. It does not have to be on water.”

The cause, Newell speculates, is at least partially, to mating. “Larger adult alligators, males, they may be 8 to 12 feet long, will actually run all of these smaller males out of the area...these younger alligators get out on land, or some of the tributaries and go to the nearest water hole they can find, and a lot of times [it] is usually a neighborhood pond,” says Newell.

The last alligator that Newell assisted with was captured about three weeks prior to the interview. It was a little over eight feet long and located in a subdivision. The first thing that PPD does is contact MDWFP. Based upon the urgency of the situation, and the availability of MDWFP, a patrol officer on duty may end up responding. In this case, Newell was able to successfully catch, relocate and release as the eight foot one inch alligator was successfully released into the upper Pearl River.

Newell wants to reassure Pearl residents that primarily, alligators want to be left alone. Unfortunately with a population increase on both sides (alligators and humans) these types of calls have increased.

He also cautions that the worst thing someone can do, whether intentionally or not, is to feed an alligator. “[Alligators] never forget anything and a free meal...and you are not going to get rid of him unless a professional comes out there and takes him out of that area.” He also cautions the public that it is highly illegal to feed alligators.

Newell recommends that if a Pearl resident spots an alligator that is either acting way too friendly or hanging around any public area, to first contact the MDWFP. “They are the experts, they...oversee these animals and have some very very good people that are very experienced in this matter.” He says that the occasions where he is called to assist with a capture of an alligator, have proven to be an opportunity for him educate the public, with a primary goal to make residents feel at ease, as well as safely catch and release the nuisance alligator.

Newell wants to be clear, “I am not talking as an expert from the MDWFP, I am a Pearl Police Officer whatever I can do to help Pearl and make them feel better it is what I am concerned with now.” And if that involves wrangling an alligator, he will respond as a patrolman for the City of Pearl.

See page # for companion article “Mississippi alligator population, MDWFP provides valuable insight.”

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