Where the wild things are
By Theresa D. McClellan
For the Fort Bend Star
After the rains came, their phones rang at least twice a day with calls for help with an errant alligator in a neighborhood. That’s because the flooding displaced the watery creatures from their homes in ponds and swamps, says Christy Kroboth, certified alligator trapper, educator and partner with The Gator Squad.
The calls had slowed to a crawl, but since the death of a toddler in Orlando at Disney they have picked up again with alligator sightings on beaches and in neighborhoods. Last week Kroboth responded to a call of an alligator seeking shade beneath a car in a driveway.
The 3.5 foot female alligator was captured by Kroboth who said she was expecting “this huge big monster,” based on the calls. Other sightings have been in Fort Bend County on Highway 6, backyard porches and even a residential pool.
“They live in water and when the water rises and floods, they rise away. They are super smart. They can smell water but alligators are kinda turned around and will be looking for their way home,” said Kroboth.
That’s why they are showing up in residential areas, as humans have encroached on their spaces, and are learning to co-exist. They are also on the move because it is mating season which ended June 30.
“They don’t see us as a food source. They are afraid of people and want to go the other way. But if you feed it everyday, it will seek people as food, and that’s when they start stalking,” she said.
Since the Tax Day Floods, the gators have shown up on back porches, golf courses and a residential swimming pool in Fort Bend County. When one walked up to a neighbor’s front door in Missouri City, Kroboth said it was apparent the alligator was accustomed to going to homes in the subdivision to get food. That’s when they become a nuisance and that’s when the non-profit Gator Squad is called. Unlike other trappers who sell the soft underbelly of the alligator’s hide, they capture and transport the animals to alligator farms or use them as part of their educational efforts, said Kroboth.
Alligators six feet and under eat ducks, turtles and fish, as well as rats and poisonous snakes, she said. “They may look slow and sluggish but they can run 35 mph.,” she said. “They can also play possum, and act like they are dead.” said Kroboth who is alarmed by recent photos in the media of people sitting on alligators found recently in saltwater beaches.
She said people lay on their bellies trying to get selfies with alligators. “You have to respect alligators, they have been around since the dinosaurs and they are smart,” she said about the protected reptile. Alligators sometimes venture into saltwater to rid themselves of parasites on their bony outer covering. “We tell people if you see one, leave it alone, stay 30 feet away or call the Gator Squad.
She has been capturing and releasing alligators for over two years and caught more than 100 with the Gator Squad. This year they’ve caught 44. Last year she had one 13.5 foot long live catch that was in the Home Depot parking lot. It had to be removed with a forklift.
In addition to alligators, the floods affected baby wildlife according to the Wildlife Center of Texas in Houston which responded to distress calls in Fort Bend County recently.
“Many distress calls we received involved people returning to their homes by boat and coming across actively drowning deer fawn. It’s probably the most common predicament people find themselves in during the recovery effort after a storm has passed,” said Anni Ranck of the TWC.
“Many people do a sweep of their property and discover fallen trees with destroyed nests and baby owls, squirrels, rabbits etc scattered about with no mom in sight. There are some cases where the flood waters are so high that animals from the bayou end up in fenced yards after the waters recede. We see a little bit of everything,” Ranck said.
Indeed. During the days of non-stop rain and the week following they admitted 437 animals encompassing 59 different species. That was in addition to the more than 4,300 patients already admitted this year. The animals were suffering from extreme exhaustion and ironically, dehydration, said Ranck.
“This is typically due to being separated from parents for days on end and being incapable of caring for themselves during that time. The more severe cases include lung infections from inhaling water and fractures sustained from dangerous, rushing torrents. We also see an increase in patients that are heavily parasitized from being exposed to contaminated water,” she said.
They have recovered everything from fawn to herons, screech owls, opossums, rabbits, hawks, turtles, and everything in between, she said. During that time we admitted 59 different species. And the animals survived.
A big part of their high survival rate is due to dedicated donors and the compassionate public,” she said. The Wildlife Center of Texas is solely funded by donations.
“While the public relies on us to provide the community with a safe place for all injured, orphaned, and sick native wildlife, we truly rely on them to support our mission.
In addition to monetary donations, we have an Amazon WishList (www.amazon.com/gp/registry/wishlist /39XTAXMEDF8OY/),as well as a supplies list (www.wildlifecenteroftexas.org/donate/donate-supplies/). Even simple items like bleach, paper towels, and newspaper are vital to our operation. We are also always in need of great volunteers as well.
Donations can be mailed in to 7007 Katy rd. Houston, TX 77024 or made online at www.wildlifecenteroftexas.org/donate/.