An alligator found living in a lagoon on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, had been shot with eleven arrows in the head and body. It had several wounds and an arrow sticking out of its backside, and maggots were feeding on the flesh, but the alligator was still alive and suffering from these injuries.
Because I have a man inside the alligator world, I got pictures. These are scans of the images and notes that were sent to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, and they’re pretty awful.
The SCDNR investigated and found out who shot the animal. Apparently a woman in the neighborhood called the DNR to get a tag to have the animal removed, which is the legal procedure for handling nuisance wildlife in South Carolina. The person she hired to remove the alligator must not have known what he was doing because he didn’t catch it. So instead of calling someone else, her neighbor, a man who also lives adjacent to the alligator’s lagoon, decided to shoot it with his crossbow. Based on the photographic evidence, it’s clear he didn’t know what he was doing either.
This happened a few weeks ago, and I’ve been going back and forth about whether or not I should post the pictures and what I should say about them. I heard the man who shot the alligator, and essentially left it to suffer, isn’t going to get in trouble. Although that doesn’t seem right, it isn’t surprising. No one in South Carolina, I was told a few years ago by someone at the DNR, has ever been charged for feeding or harassing an alligator. No one ever. When I asked why, the DNR biologist (who’s no longer there) told me it’s usually hard to figure out who did it and the DNR doesn’t have the resources to follow through on cases like this. These are reasonable reasons, and I know it can’t be easy to work for a state natural resources department–they are run by politics and don’t have large budgets.
As reasonable and understandable as all that is, I keep coming back to the fact that they know exactly who shot this alligator. And even though the people had a tag to legally remove the alligator, letting an animal suffer like this should not be legal. And the fact that these neighbors did so calls into question the legitimacy of their nuisance alligator tag request. Who knows what they did to the alligator before this? And what else is someone with so little concern for life and natural resources capable of destroying? I know for sure that if a dog had been shot with eleven arrows, someone would be in jail. They know where the shooter lives, they have witnesses, and they have an arrow from his crossbow. And still they’re not going to do anything? Not even to make an example? Send a message to the community that our natural resources are more valuable than this? Nothing? Nothing.
Well, as a writer and blogger, I can make this alligator a metaphor for what I see as one of humanity’s greatest failings. Earth and it’s creatures are ours to share and care for. Sometimes, in unfortunate situations, wild animals must be removed to protect people. But we also need to remember that wilderness needs protection from us too. I always think of how boring and inhospitable the world would be if we didn’t have functioning wild ecosystems and creatures like alligators, and bears, sharks, and tigers, and everything else that make the ecosystems work. Whether we starve the animals to death indirectly by altering the climate with our pollution, or whether enough idiots shoot them with arrows, we’re wasting precious life and irreplaceable diversity with a collective lack of conscience. Maybe, if we can’t do any better for the wild animals, we don’t deserve them. Even better: If we don’t see the pictures and get angry when people do things like this, then they’re always going to get away with it and the world and humanity will suffer.