Who says dinosaurs are extinct?
No, I’m not talking about the legendary Mokele-mbembe of the Congo or the mythical Nessie of Scotland’s Loch Ness. I’m talking about a monster reptile that haunted a stretch of the Trinity River right here in Texas.
The beast in question is an alligator (Alligator mississipiensis) that was recently shot and killed in a stretch of the Trinity that flows through Leon County by Dallas attorney Levi McCathern. Inspired by the television show Swamp People, McCathern decided to go after a big gator.
“Something I wanted to do was hunt something that could hunt me and alligators seemed like a challenge,” said McCathern.
After searching the internet for likely hunting spots, McCathern chose to hunt an area of the Trinity River just two hours outside of Dallas. He hired a couple of guides and was off in an effort to bag his trophy. You can read the details of the hunt itself and see a news piece on the alligator put together by the DFW area NBC affiliate here.
The alligator was truly a monster and must have been the undisputed king of that stretch of the river in Leon County. The giant reptile weighed in at 900 lbs. and measured 14 ft. in length. To give you a bit of perspective, the rim of a regulation basketball goal is 10 ft. off the floor. This was one enormous gator. In fact, it may prove to be a state record.
There is a bit of confusion as to the legality of the hunt. The video report by DFW NBC and the online article didn’t help matters by stating the following:
“It is against the law to hunt alligators along the Trinity River but McCathern had special permission from a private property owner to go on the hunt after many of the rancher’s cattle were gobbled up by the behemoth reptile.”
Maybe I can help clear things up a bit…or maybe not. Here goes nothing. As I understand it, there is no spring season on alligators in the core alligator counties, which are Angelina, Brazoria, Calhoun, Chambers, Galveston, Hardin, Jackson, Jasper, Jefferson, Liberty, Matagorda, Nacogdoches, Newton, Orange, Polk, Refugio, Sabine, San Augustine, San Jacinto, Trinity, Tyler and Victoria Counties. Licensed hunters in non-core counties, however, are allowed one alligator per season, provided it is taken on private property with landowner permission using a line set, alligator gig, hand-held snare with an integral locking mechanism, lawful archery gear, or firearms. In addition, it is legal to take alligators from public water, provided the hunter is on private property when he or she does it. It is unlawful to discharge a firearm from, in, or across public water. Alligators taken from public water may be dispatched with a centerfire weapon, provided the alligator is on private land when you pull the trigger.
If you are thinking all of that is about as clear as the muddy Trinity River itself, you are not alone. I’m right there with you. I guess the point is that this hunt was legitimate and Mr. McCathern did nothing illegal in taking this alligator.
Many realize that the Trinity River is loaded with alligators. Many don’t realize that the stretch flowing through Leon County seems to be a haven for giants. The area is rich in wildlife. Beaver, nutria, otter, ducks, hogs, deer, turtles, frogs, and fish are abundant. All are potentially on the menu for an alligator and contribute to the staggering sizes being attained by these reptiles in the region.
Occasionally, despite this bounty of wild game, big gators are tempted by domestic livestock. Back in May of 2007, a huge alligator, dubbed “Big George” by the locals, was suspected by ranchers as the likely culprit behind the disappearance of several yearling calves that year. The ranchers decided “Big George” had to go. So, permission was given for local guides to bring clients in on their private land in the hopes that the huge gator could be taken. A Lufkin resident named Danny Vines shot and killed “Big George” in May of 2007. The alligator was truly a colossus. It weighed a staggering 735 lbs. and was 13’ 1 ¼” long. At the time, “Big George” was the sixth largest alligator ever taken by rifle in North America according to Safari Club International. The saga of how “Big George” met his demise can be read on the website of the Corsicana Daily Sun here.
The McCathern alligator would seem to have been a worthy successor to “Big George” as king of the Trinity River. No doubt, another bull gator, possibly the offspring of one of these two bruisers, will move in and fill the void left by the death of the latest giant.
How big will he get?