Two Ridgeland men were charged Friday with the harassment of an alligator after photos were posted online showing the men pouring beer into the juvenile reptile’s mouth, according to a press release from South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.
DNR enforcement officers began investigating the case after the agency received multiple emails and messages from the public on May 25, the release states.
The incident took place on May 24, on a public dirt road between Hardeeville and Tillman in Jasper County, according to DNR.
Joseph Andrew Floyd Jr., 20, of Ridgeland, and Zachary Lloyd Brown, 21, of Ridgeland, admitted to officers that they picked up the alligator after they saw it crossing the road, the release states. They then poured beer into the animal’s mouth and took photos to post on social media,. According to Floyd Jr., they then released the alligator and watched it swim away in a nearby pond, the release states.
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DNR is filing the misdemeanor charge of harassing wildlife through the state’s alligator management legislation. This charge comes with a maximum fine of $300. The judge who oversees the case in court will determine the men’s final punishment.
There is federal protection in place to ensure alligators are legally harvested for international trade. But for a case like this, no federal protection that applies.
“Alligators are protected under state law and even federal law where they are still listed as threatened solely due to their similarity of appearance to other endangered crocodilians worldwide,” SCDNR Alligator Program Coordinator Jay Butfiloski added.
The incident, recorded on Snapchat and then screenshot and posted on Facebook, was reported to DNR by multiple concerned citizens Thursday. The images were posted on Snapchat Wednesday.
The Facebook post, which includes eight saved Snapchat photos, depicts the teens holding the baby alligator by the neck, pouring beer down its throat, blowing smoke into its mouth and drinking beer poured down the animal’s tail.
As of 11 a.m. Friday, the Facebook post had been shared nearly 200 times and received more than 100 comments.
Lindsey Lang, who posted the photos on Facebook, has received some backlash but said she knows she did the right thing.
In South Carolina, it is against the law to feed an alligator or entice it with food. Violators could be found guilty of a misdemeanor and fined up to $200 or imprisoned for up to 30 days.
It is also against the law for a person to hunt or take an alligator without a permit. According to the state’s law, “take” means to harass, hunt, capture, kill or attempt to harass, hunt, capture or kill wildlife. Violators convicted of the misdemeanor could be fined between $500 and $2,500 dollars and imprisoned for up to 30 days.
In instances such as the Snapchat posting, DNR asks the public to submit a non-emergency criminal activity tip through the new “SCDNR Tips” app, which can be downloaded for free from iTunes or Google Play, or by calling the Operation Game Theft hotline at 1-800-922-5431.
“... It is fine to call OGT with questions or if you see something and aren’t sure about it — not necessarily just to report a certain violation or problem,” Lucas said in an email. “We are happy to answer those questions anytime.”
The State’s Rachael Myers Lowe contributed to this report