Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The record-sized alligator

The major news outlets are carrying the story of Dustin Brockman of Vicksburg, Mississippi who, with his brother and friend, killed a 727-pound record breaking alligator that was 13 feet, 4.5 inches long. The previous weight record was 697.5 pounds, according to a Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, program coordinator.

Brockman is quoted as saying, “We chased him for about two hours, ...Then we got a shot on him.” The alligator was shot with a crossbow before they could shoot it with a shotgun. It took four hours to get the gator into the boat, it was too heavy for the three men to handle so they just waited in the middle of the river for the sun to rise. At 6:30 (a.m.) Brockman called three or four more guys to help load the alligator into the boat.

Just an hour prior to the Brockman catch, another hunting party led by Beth Trammell of Madison, Mississippi hooked a 13-foot, 5.5-inch alligator near Redwood. The Trammell party's alligator broke the previous weight record with their 723.5-pound catch until Brockman broke it 60 minutes later.

According to the media the current length record  has yet to be broken, is 13 feet, 6.5 inches. That alligator was captured on the Pascagoula River in 2008, according to the Mississippi Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks department.

Now, these are certain large animals. But neither qualifies as the record size alligator. In fact, neither iseven close to being the record sized alligator. Edward Avery Mc lLHenny's 1935 book, The Alligator's Life History is a natural history classic. Mc lLHenny's  describes the alligator's voice, hibernation habits, den construction, feeding habits, reproduction, growth, predation and other aspects of alligator life history in great detail.  All of which has been subsequently verified by 20th century crocodilian biologists. Mc lLHenny's  lived on Avery Island, Louisiana and became a prominent conservationist and wildlife advocate. 

On page 59 of his book, Mc lLHenny's  writes,

"There is plenty of evidence in the written record of long past observers that alligators in Louisiana attain an extreme length of, at least eighteen or twenty feet. To my certain knowledge, there has been taken in the vicinity of Avery island, three alligators exceeding eighteen feet in length. One of these was an alligator known to we boys as "Monsurat," killed by Mr. Robert Mooney at Avery Island in 1879, which was measured by my father. This alligator was eighteen feet, three inches in length. The next large one that I remember seeing measured, was killed by Robert Dell, our plantation overseer, in October, 1882, at the junction of the road across the marsh joining Avery Island with the mainland, at the Avery Island end. Dell was coming in over the road and saw this alligator crossing the road. He had a pistol with him, and shot the alligator from his horse, killing it. On his describing its size to my father and uncles, a four-mule team and wagon was sent to bring it to our house. This alligator measured eighteen feet, five and one-half inches."

He continues with a description of an alligator he killed and measured on January 2, 1890  in a small bayou that connected lake Cock with Vermilion Bay (LA). The animal measured 19 feet 2 inches. This is the record generally accepted by herpetologists for the largest Alligator mississippiensis.

MclLHenny, E. A. 1935. The Alligator's Life History.The Christopher Publishing House, Boston. 117 pp.

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