Alligators in the creeks around Fremont are decidedly not common. But there was at least one discovered this week in Alameda. The creature was shot and killed shortly after.
Early Tuesday morning, the Fremont Police Department tweeted photos of the lurking, four-foot long reptile with a bite strength equivalent to that of being pulled by a truck. Officials warned people to stay away from the Alameda Creek Trail where hikers spotted it.
A few hours later, the Alameda County Sherriff’s Department (which polices the county’s waterways) tweeted again to clarify that neither sheriff nor Fremont Police Department personnel had been the ones to kill the animal, and that comments and/or incredibly angry emails should be directed to US Fish & Wildlife, who ultimately made the call about the stray beast.
American alligators are not native to the Bay Area, as you probably already knew based on the fact that, outside of Academy of Sciences, you’ve never seen one in the Bay Area. Officials speculate that this one was presumably kept as a pet (which is illegal) before escaping or, perhaps most likely, being set loose.
Game officials defended the decision to kill rather than capture it, noting that "[i]t’s incredibly difficult to tranquilize an alligator" and that they couldn’t risk it giving them the slip and endangering park goers.
One of only two alligator species in the world, American alligators have bounced back from the brink of extinction in recent years. They average eight to eleven feet in size and weigh up to half a ton.
Although they rarely prey on people and are much less aggressive than their crocodile cousins, alligators do pose occasional threat to humans.
The scientific journal Wilderness & Environmental Medicine found only 24 recorded alligator-related deaths in the US over an 80-plus year span going back to 1928, but also turned up over 560 "adverse encounters" in the same period.
- Alligator Found in Fremont Creek [NBC]
- Alligator FAQ [National Zoo]
- Alligator Bite Equivalent To Truck [Science Daily]
- American Alligator [Fish & Wildlife]
- Adverse Alligator Encounters [WEM]