Amid Harvey chaos, fears of alligators escaping captivity

August 29, 2017
Alligators, such as this one seen in Louisiana in April 2017, are freshwater giant reptiles that could easily attack humans and are native to Southeast Texas

As flood waters in Texas rose to unprecedented heights Tuesday, so did fears that hundreds of captive alligators may get loose and swim into populated areas.

Gator Country, an animal park and sanctuary located northeast of Houston, was inundated with water close to topping its fences, which are the only things holding back 350 alligators.

"We're less than a foot from () going over the fences," the park's owner Gary Saurage told television station KFDM on Monday.

"We don't know what to do."

Alligators—the freshwater variety of the giant reptiles that could easily attack humans—are native to Southeast Texas, so they were not kept in containers, Saurage said.

Other potentially lethal animals, such as poisonous snakes and crocodiles—the alligators' saltwater brethren—had been removed from exhibits and put into enclosures.

The two biggest alligators, "Big Al" and "Big Tex," were also safely inside trailers, but the rest of the brood—mostly rescued from the wild—were roaming inside the park.

The television station's report about an impending jailbreak worried residents already grappling with record-shattering rainfall that's caused widespread flooding in Southeast Texas.

The state's chief scientist for alligators on Tuesday offered words that were meant to comfort.

"If some escape, it's still a drop in the bucket compared to the wild population," John Warren of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department told the Houston Chronicle.

"We understand it's a legitimate worry," he added, offering reassurances that the captive alligators would likely not go far from their food source, even if they do manage to escape their enclosure in a rural area 15 miles (24 kilometers) from the nearest major city.

Explore further: Six things to know about alligators

Related Stories

Six things to know about alligators

June 28, 2016

Growing up to nearly 15 feet in length, the American alligator can take up residence in Florida's canals, lakes, rivers and swamps. It is one of the state's most ecologically important and often misunderstood predators. And ...

Drought kills Paraguay's thirsty alligators

July 4, 2016

A drought in northern Paraguay has driven thousands of thirsty alligators to crowd around lakes and wells, scaring off cattle from the dwindling water sources, environmentalists and locals say.

Alabama alligators may become hunted

May 3, 2006

Alabama officials are reportedly considering establishing an alligator hunting season to combat a dramatically rising gator population.

In both love and war, alligators signal size by bellowing

May 12, 2017

American alligators produce loud, low-frequency vocalizations called "bellows." Cognitive biologists at the University of Vienna, Stephan Reber and Tecumseh Fitch, investigated these vocalizations and found that they reveal ...

Recommended for you

Loss of a microRNA molecule boosts rice production

October 16, 2018

The wild rice consumed by our Neolithic ancestors was very different from the domesticated rice eaten today. Although it is unclear when humans first started farming rice, the oldest paddy fields—in the lower Yangzi River ...

Big Agriculture eyeing genetic tool for pest control

October 16, 2018

A controversial and unproven gene-editing technology touted as a silver bullet against malaria-bearing mosquitos could wind up being deployed first in commercial agriculture, according to experts and an NGO report published ...

A selfish gene makes mice into migrants

October 16, 2018

House mice carrying a specific selfish supergene move from one population to another much more frequently than their peers. This finding from a University of Zurich study shows for the first time that a gene of this type ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.