Friday, December 01, 2006

Elusive Alligator May Have Said 'See ya later,' but Reptile Sightings Still Reported in Crown Colony

The Lufkin Daily News

One of the top golf courses in the state, Lufkin's Crown Colony Country Club, attracts people with its lush greens, its lavish fairways and its scenic beauty. But according to some who live there or frequent the area on a regular basis, alligators seem to like it, too. Danny McCoy, manager of the Crown Colony Country Club, said he had heard rumors about alligators in lakes that dot the club's golf course.
"I have never seen them myself," he said. "They're probably very small. Our grounds superintendent is always keeping an eye out for them ... but there is not any confirmation." Not many members have actually reported sighting the alligators, McCoy said. While some members claim to have seen them, they did not want their names used in this story. "We saw the head (a couple of weeks ago)," said a woman who plays golf regularly on the Crown Colony course. McCoy believes the alligator tales began after the black panther legends died down. "There was a story that there was black panther going around and then (the alligator story) came up."
Stories of alligator sightings have been going on since the summer, McCoy said, "but the employees never saw them." The golf course has three small lake areas that are anywhere between five and 10 feet deep, he said. The alligators could be there. There are a lot of creeks too, but they don't hold water continuously. "In the summertime, alligators can be seen basking in the sun," McCoy said. "But we didn't see them in the summer."
Gordon Henley, director of the Ellen Trout Zoo and resident alligator and crocodile expert, said he too had heard that there were alligators in or around the golf course. He has not seen them either, and he says this is the wrong time of the year to start looking for them. "(The current) weather conditions cause alligators to retreat," Henley said. "In (the Ellen Trout Lake) I don't recall seeing alligators when the temperature was below 80 degrees."
Alligators need a pond or a lake to live in — "a wet environment," Henley said. "They need ample food supply and shelter. And there has to be more than one to multiply." Alligators eat snakes, turtles, fish, raccoons and opossums, he said.
While they are no longer an endangered species, they are still threatened, said Monique Slaughter, natural resource specialist for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. It is important for people to remember, Henley said, that the eastern part of Texas is the natural home of the alligators. Mostly, alligators are content basking in the sun and being left alone, Henley said. The danger comes when people try feeding them. "They don't eat people as a regular food item," he said.
McCoy said he would concerned about alligators on the golf course in the country club area because of pets, dogs and children who are always nearby. "If we see one, we will call the parks and wildlife department," he said. "And we encourage anyone who sees one to do the same."

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