Alligators will eat pets

Published 7:00 am Saturday, June 6, 2020

While uncommon, instances of pets being taken by alligators do occur in Mississippi and Pearl River County.

Local farmer Leilani Rosenbaum found that out the hard way when she saw her small dog taken by an alligator on her property on May 23.

Rosenbaum said she was picking blueberries early in the evening with her two dogs. One stayed nearby, while Rosenbaum’s eight-pound dachshund, Coco, wandered close to the edge of a 12-acre lake.

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It was then that Rosenbaum heard a loud noise. She dropped her blueberry colander and rushed to the lake, where she saw Coco in the alligator’s mouth.

“It was horrible to hear her crushed and cry and whimper, and I couldn’t do anything,” said Rosenbaum.

The alligator dropped down into the lake with the dog, and when it came back up Coco was gone, said Rosenbaum.

The wildlife officer for Pearl River County came the next week and removed the alligator from her property, said Rosenbaum.

While pets being preyed upon by an alligator is not common, Mississippi Wildlife Fisheries and Parks does receive one to two calls a year reporting such incidents, said Ricky Flynt, alligator program coordinator with Mississippi Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. Preying on pets is not something alligators typically do, in part because so many other prey like snakes, turtles and dead fish are available, said Flynt.

In the weeks prior to the incident, Rosenbaum said a cat had gone missing, a neighbor’s cat had been injured and several geese had been injured.

Rosenbaum said a different juvenile alligator had been spotted in the lake previously, so she thought that animal might be responsible for the injuries and disappearances. She was frustrated that no one told her and her husband that a larger alligator had moved into the lake.

Rosenbaum was also frustrated that she was unable to hire an alligator wrestler to kill and cook the alligator for the family after it ate Coco.

However, alligators are a protected species, so it is illegal for someone to hunt an alligator or possess any part of the animal without a special permit from the state, said Flynt.

“Alligators are one of those species that in the past has experienced extreme conservation issues. It was once on the endangered species list,” said Flynt.

The nuisance alligator program allows landowners to submit nuisance alligator complaints to remove alligators that have preyed on or attempted to prey on pets or livestock, that have lost a fear of humans or that are in out of place locations like a yard, swimming pool or highway, said Flynt.

In Pearl River County, landowners can call the south region office at 601-783-2911 to determine if an animal on their property is a nuisance or in an emergency they can call 911 or the wildlife hotline 1-800-BESMART.

Any nuisance alligator over six feet cannot be relocated, instead they are euthanized by a licensed alligator trapper, said Flynt. The trappers are allowed to euthanize the alligator and commercially dispose of it so that the animal does not go to waste, said Flynt.

After losing her dog, Rosenbaum is frustrated with the local laws concerning alligators, and said she would like to see more education on alligators for landowners, alerts when an alligator is reported in an area and wishes homeowners were allowed to harvest nuisance alligators on their property after notifying the wildlife department.