In any other part of the country it may sound odd to find a fully grown alligator catching a tan on someone’s front lawn, but in St. Charles Parish, it simply means summer is around the corner and alligator nuisance officer Kenny Schmill has work to do.
The warm weather in late winter and early springtime lends itself to the sudden appearance of the alligator, who normally spends his days in the water once it reaches the upper 70’s, Schmill tells the Herald Guide.
“When the water warms up to about 77 degrees, they come out of their dens and start eating,” Schmill said. “They sun themselves usually around May or June, but after that you normally wont see them outside the water.”
In the meantime, Schmill finds himself on call at all hours of the night. He’s been out at 2 a.m. before helping residents breathe easier after discovering one of the scaly creatures scavenging for a meal, even if it happens to be somebody’s pet.
“There was a call I got from Willowdale subdivision where a gator was at someone’s backdoor,” Schmill said. “It turns out there was a poodle barking from the inside. I think an alligator hears everything.”
Normally the gators stay in the swamps and canals until they mate in May or June, but after that they start traveling, Schmill told the Herald Guide. And while its not uncommon for an alligator to reach 10 feet in length, the average gator can run up to 30 mph.
It seems the gator has a tendency to travel long distances as well, Schmill said. Several times he’s caught alligators in St. Charles Parish that have traveled from as far as Hammond where they were farm-raised. He can determine it’s the same alligator because the farms tag the ones they raise before being released into the wild.
“I had one from Hammond that ended up on the west bank of St. Charles. I’m not exactly sure how he got there. I think he either took the ferry or the bridge,” Schmill said jokingly.
All kidding aside, Schmill said it’s important to keep small children and pets away from the alligators, dogs especially. Alligators are very sensitive to loud noises and will have no problem trapping a dog and feeding on it for a week. For an annoyed gator, the easiest way to shut something up is to turn it into his dinner, Schmill said.
Curious children tend to throw things in the gator’s direction if they happen to come across one, which also become a very deadly situation. An alligator isn’t the type of animal that goes looking for trouble, Schmill noted, but when provoked they can be unpredictable and downright scary.
Schmill said the best way to reach him to remove a nuisance gator is to call the Sheriff’s Office who can reach him by pager anytime. Most he catches and releases back into the wild. If it’s one that’s tagged and has been caught before, he terminates those, he said.
One last piece of advice Schmill offered for anyone who may have a close encounter with a gator is that even though they run fast, they don’t turn very well.
“If one attempts to go after you, remember to zigzag,” Schmill said.