Are large reptiles evolving into mutant creatures worthy of starring in monster movies as they wipe out all cows and humans (hopefully in that order)? Two stories this week indicated that alligators and crocodiles are developing new traits that may not be good for humanity or bovinity.
A Florida commercial alligator hunter didn’t have to travel far to respond to a call that a 15-foot gator was eating cows … it was his own farm. Lee Lightsey organizes guided hunts and has been professionally hunting alligators since 1988, so he’s had plenty of experience with the big creatures. But he claims he’s never seen one as big as the 15-footer he spotted picking off cows from the cattle ponds on his farm. The largest American alligator ever recorded measured 19.2 feet long. Lightsey’s cattle feaster was an estimated 800 pounds and had to be lifted with a tractor.
At least you can keep these beasts out of your yard with a sturdy fence, right? That may be true in Florida, but not in northern India where residents of Boondi in Rajasthan watched a 250-pound pregnant croc climb a 4-foot fence and splash around in a lake before looking for a place to lay her eggs. If the crocodile climbed the fence to get out, it probably climbed said fence to get in. As a certain American presidential candidate might say, what these people need is a bigger fence.
Unfortunately, if you live in croc-infested areas, you’re going to need a MUCH bigger fence. A study published in Herpetology Notes found verifiable reports of adult crocodiles climbing fences as high as six feet and juvenile scaled critters scaling fences as high as 30 feet! So if you’re really worried about fence-climbing crocs, you should build a 31-foot fence, right?
Wrong! According to that same study in Herpetology Notes, crocodiles can climb trees too. If your fence is next to a taller tree, you’re croc-out-of-luck in keeping them out of your yard.
Can alligators climb fences or trees too? There don’t seem to be any verifiable eyewitness accounts of that. So your best bet for large alligator avoidance if you live in Florida, Louisiana or Texas is to keep your cows locked up indoors at all times. If you live in the crocodile lands of Australia, Africa, Asia and the Americas, build a 31-foot fence, cut down all of your trees or move to Antarctica.