South Carolina

Alligator being force-fed beer was new one for DNR, but ticketing gator molesters isn’t

Images posted to a Snapchat story Wednesday show the apparent maltreatment of a young alligator in Beaufort County. Posts by people concerned about the incident were posted on Facebook on Thursday.
Images posted to a Snapchat story Wednesday show the apparent maltreatment of a young alligator in Beaufort County. Posts by people concerned about the incident were posted on Facebook on Thursday. Submitted photos

After two Ridgeland men were charged last week with the harassment of a juvenile alligator, many members of the public expressed shock and concern. But they weren’t the only ones surprised by the photos posted online.

Lt. Michael Paul Thomas with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division said the type of case that occurred in Jasper County last week is rare — in fact, he and DNR spokesperson David Lucas could not remember any similar case in the past 15 years, in which a gator was “harassed” and then released in this way.

The incident, which was originally recorded on Snapchat, took place May 24 on a public dirt road between Hardeeville and Tillman in Jasper County. It was reported to DNR the next day, according to the department.

Joseph Andrew Floyd Jr., 20, of Ridgeland, and Zachary Lloyd Brown, 21, of Ridgeland, admitted to officers that they picked up the alligator, poured beer into its mouth and posted photos on social media before releasing it, according to a news release from DNR.

DNR is filing the misdemeanor charge of harassing wildlife through the state’s alligator management legislation, which comes with a maximum fine of $300.

“This case was able to be investigated quickly and brought to a successful conclusion by SCDNR law enforcement officers because multiple people saw something on social media that did not look right to them and took the time to report it to us,” Lucas wrote in an email “That was a huge help, and we would strongly encourage other people to do the same.”

From January 2012 to March 2017, 143 tickets were written by DNR officers across the state for violations of South Carolina’s law pertaining to alligators.

During that same period, 16 tickets in violation of alligator codes were written in Beaufort County. Five of those were issued for molesting or disturbing an alligator.

Those numbers include charges of molesting, feeding or illegally possessing an alligator, violating alligator permit restrictions or taking an alligator without a nuisance tag, out of season or illegally. In some cases, multiple tickets are written for the same incident, Lucas said.

The most common reports DNR sees involve people feeding alligators, which sometimes results in “nuisance gator” situation in which an animal has to be removed because they start to associate people with food and become aggressive and approach people, according to Lucas.

“You often see the phrase ‘A fed alligator is a dead alligator,’ ” Lucas wrote. “That’s absolutely true.”

To report an incident of wildlife harassment, call 1-800-922-5431, send a text using the “SCDNR TIPS” app for mobile devices or submit a message on DNR’s Tips website.

Maggie Angst: 843-706-8137, @maggieangst

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