Recordgator? Too late, but it sure was HUGE

ByChris Dixon

Saturday,January28, 2006

Edition:FINAL, Section: LOCAL & STATE, Page B1


MoncksCorner — If you think you've killed a state-record-sizedalligator, it would be best to let the Department of NaturalResources measure it.

At least that'swhat Al Jones wishes he did.

Last October,Jones, 56, was given an emergency nuisance permit from the stateDepartment of Natural Resources to kill three large alligators thathad been frequenting his campground, marina and swimming beach atAngel's Landing on Lake Moultrie.

"We killed onethat was 10 1/2 feet," he said, "one that was nearly 13 feet, andthen I killed a real one."

A veteran trackerwho has assisted DNR officers on alligator harvests in years past,Jones said he and his son tracked a particularly large alligator nearthe campground. Here, Jones plunged a harpoon into the creature'srough hide, but the stainless steel tip broke. A rope-secured harpoonis required on alligator hunts because it is vital that a woundedgator not be allowed to escape or sink to the bottom of the water.

"I called theguys in Florida who sold me the harpoon" he said, "and asked, 'How doy'all use this thing again?' They said, 'How big is the gator?' Itold them I thought it was 14 feet, and they said they had never hadto harpoon one that big."

Two reports abouthuge, documented, Lowcountry gators came in the wake of recent Postand Courier articles on "Alligatorzilla," a decades-old bull gatorthat makes his home on Bull's Island.

In one case, DNRgator tracker Ron Russell said a huge bull that he killed last Julyin Pinopolis had been officially measured by DNR at 13 feet, 5.5inches. This would make the animal larger than the current recordholder, a 13 foot 1 inch gator shot by poachers two decades ago inSparkleberry Swamp.

DNR doesn'texpect to have a full rundown of last year's gator harvest untilFebruary. At that time, the creature may be recognized as the largesttaken in the state.

The largestdocumented alligator in the U.S. was a 19 foot, 2 inch monster killedin Louisiana.

Emergency permitsare the only means under which gators may be hunted in the state. TheDNR gets around 500 calls a year for removal of nuisance gators fromswimming areas, backyards and, increasingly, from in stormwaterretention ponds.

Two days afterhis first harpoon shot, Jones tracked his own monster into a sloughwhere he was able to successfully land a harpoon. The gator thenlaunched an unsuccessful attack over the bow of the boat. A shakenJones backtracked and followed the bull as he swam underwaterattached to a gallon jug tied to the harpoon line. Nearly three hourslater, the creature was felled with a .357 caliber bullet.

Jones tied themonster to a chain and hoisted him into the air with a frontendloader. With a ladder, he said he measured him at 14 feet, 1 inch,with a tiny portion of his tail missing.

He didn't get theanimal officially measured by DNR officials, though, because it wasnot until after he had cut off the animal's head and had 180 poundsof meat processed that he thought he might have set a record.

Russell, who runsGator Getter Consultants of Goose Creek, killed his huge gator aftera well-publicized incident last June when the animal attacked agolden retriever. The retriever fought back and survived. "When Ifirst saw it across the canal," he said, "I knew it was a big gator,but I didn't have any idea it would be that big."

Russell said hefirst shot the gator, but the bullet ricocheted off its enormoushead. He tracked it into shallow water where he and his son Ronniewere able to gaffe the animal and kill it.

Shown a pictureof Jones' gator, Russell said that given the enormous weight of thecreature, it was likely that the animal stretched at least a fewinches before being measured alongside the 6'2" Jones. Officialmeasurements are done with gators lying flat. "But that's a biggator," he said, "ain't no doubt. You could stack another six footfella there on top of him and still only be at his jowls."

For his part,Jones said that even if he neglected to have a DNR official measurehis gator, "I accomplished two things. One, I killed one of thebiggest gators ever killed in South Carolina, and two, my name is not'lefty.' "

Reach Chris Dixon at745-5855 or