I came across an interesting story about an out of place animal today. The Abilene Reporter-News reported an alligator was killed just outside the town of Cross Plains, Texas. You can access the story here. Now this may not seem remarkable on the surface as alligators are not only natural but common in the lone star state. What is remarkable is that Cross Plains is located in Callahan County not too far southeast of Abilene. This area is all but a desert.
Dick Vestal and his son Chris had been telling people they had spotted an alligator in one of their stock tanks (that would be a pond to any non-Texan readers). Predictably, nobody believed them. The elder Vestal claims to have first spotted the creature about three years ago and continued to spot the gator every two or three weeks as it moved back and forth between stock tanks.
The alligator's stay on the Vestal property came to an abrupt end this week, however, when it was shot and killed by a passerby who spotted it in a roadside ditch about a quarter of a mile from the latest tank it had called home. Dick Vestal was pleased that he and his son's stories of the gator had been proven true but a bit distressed that the animal had been killed. "We watched that rascal grow," Vestal said. " I imagine someone just had a pet that got too big for them, and they turned it loose-and it ended up out there in my stock tank."
Dick Vestal may or may not be right in his theory of how the gator came to live in his stock tank. The gator was at least a couple of hundred miles farther west than it should have been. It just goes to show that sometimes reports of animals in places they aren't supposed to be turn out to be true.
Are tales of cougars in central Texas, jaguars in south Texas, or black bears in east Texas any more unlikely than an alligator in arid Cross Plains? What about the "ghost grizzlies" of the South San Juan Wilderness in Colorado or the wolverines of Washington State? Unlikely? Definitely. Impossible? Certainly not. I read just yesterday of a Florida panther that was shot and killed in Alabama. These cats are not supposed to exist outside of the south-central portion of the state. So, the next time you hear about an animal roaming about in an area where it isn't supposed to exist, think back on the unlikely tale of the alligator of Cross Plains, Texas and keep an open mind. You just never know.