Cuddle Cute Pandas, Kill Ugly 'Gators

Who hasn't oohed and aahed over the Smithsonian National Zoo's female giant panda, Mei Xiang, nuzzling her newborn cub?

Thanks to the zoo's 38 cameras transmitting live video 24/7, about a million viewers have tuned in over the past few months to the heart-warming show via computers and mobile devices – yes, there's an app for that.

At the other end of the cuteness scale is the record 725-pound, 13 ½- foot alligator slaughtered earlier this week by a truck driver in Mississippi, which should change its nickname from the Magnolia State to the Monster Reptile State or Monster Reptile Killer State, take your pick.

Just for fun, let's pretend to juxtapose those images, so that the zoo cam is trained on hunters taking aim at panda cubs.

A few viewers, I suspect, might be offended.

I have no great affection for alligators, crocodiles, or other large, lurking predators that lunge and snap, but am just as offended when they are killed for sport as I would be if some lunatic with a rifle broke into the zoo's panda den.

We homo sapiens tend to display only anthropomorphic affection for adorable mammals, offset by disgusted disdain for slimier, reptilian species.

I suppose it's commendable that humans are trying to preserve giant pandas, whose numbers in the wild have dwindled to only a few thousand, but I also wish people would have similar regard for less-cuddly critters.

Back to the ill-fated alligator, its death turned out to be part of a dramatic tale with a twist.

According to CNN, a hunting party led by Beth Trammell of Madison, Miss., caught and killed a 723½-pound, 13½- foot gator last weekend, breaking the previous weight record of 697½ pounds.

But Trammel's record, like her gator, was short-lived.

An hour later, Dustin Bockman, his younger brother Ryan and their friend Cole Landers snagged their heavier prize.

The gator didn't give up without a fight – even when Bockman shot it in the back with a crossbow.

Luckily for the hunters – and unluckily for the gator – they attached a line to an empty 3-gallon water jug affixed with bells and glow sticks, so eventually they tracked down and reeled in the hapless reptile.

Eventually, as the network reported, Bockman stuck the barrel of his Remington 1100 20-gauge shotgun into the water, aimed it at the soft spot on the back of the animal's head and pulled the trigger.

That still didn't do the trick, though, because the gun barrel was under water and "peeled back like a banana peel," Bockman said. Nevertheless, he was able to fire two more shots, and that finished the job.

Bockman was one of 920 people picked from 27,000 applicants for licenses to hunt in Mississippi's 10-day alligator season. Chances are Bockman's record, like so many alligators, will not survive the season.

By the way, we here in the Nutmeg State don't have native alligators – the closest we come are snapping turtles.

These fearsome-looking creatures (oops, there I go, valuing them superficially) don't get anywhere near as big as Mississippi's alligators, but I've seen a few as big as manhole covers. This can be an unsettling sight if you're swimming nearby, though turtles as a rule don't bother humans, at least in the water. I've helped snappers cross the road by using a long stick, knowing better than to place my hand near their powerful jaws.

Anyway, in July Connecticut for the first time established a snapping turtle trapping season. Trappers can take up to 30 turtles until Sept. 30, but no more than five in a single day.

I hope we don't emulate Mississippi and make a big deal of the hunt, vying to see who can bag the biggest turtle.

What's the sport in that?

Just the same, I also hope I never see a 725-pound, 13 ½- foot anything heading toward me when I'm out for a swim.

Reader Comments

MORE BLOGS

What Snow and Ice? The Maple Sap Is Running!

Every year about this time, after having spent the past few months shoveling tons of snow from the driveway, lugging tons of firewood from the shed, getting out of bed dozens of times at 3 a.m. to stoke the stove, hauling countless buckets of...

Finally! A Worthy Snowstorm -- Maybe Even a Bombogenesis!

Just when we winter worshipers had resigned ourselves to another snowless season, and only a day after the temperature climbed ridiculously into the 60s, our prayers have been answered not just by an ordinary storm but by a meteorological...

Animal Tracks in the Snow: They All Tell a Story

If you thought most forest animals hibernated in winter, or at least slept through the night, take a stroll through the woods the morning after a snowfall.

What Does the Fox Say? Yip-yip-yip! Chance Encounters With Creatures Great and Small

While I lugged logs from the woodshed the other morning a yip-yip-yip! pierced the still air. First reaction: Did the neighbors get a dog? No, they were out of town for a few days. Yip-yip-yip!

Ringling Bros., SeaWorld and the Columbus Zoo: Pitfalls of Keeping Elephants, Orcas and Gorillas in Captivity

Large, wild animals belong in the wild, not in a circus, aquarium or zoo – a point reinforced by events involving three prominent, unrelated institutions in the last couple weeks.

Our Debt of Gratitude to President Obama, the Environmentalist-in-Chief

As we prepare to inaugurate a president who has repeatedly called climate change a "hoax," appointed as Environmental Protection Agency administrator an Oklahoma attorney general who is suing that agency, named the CEO of ExxonMobil as secretary...

Call of the Wild: A Clash Over Cellphones in The Great Outdoors

"Yeah, I’m standing on the summit now! … The view is incredible – I can’t believe I’m getting a signal up here!"

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year: Plunging into Icy Fishers Island Sound at the Annual New Year's Day Run-Swim

Look, I’m not going to lie: While some longtime participants in one of southeastern Connecticut’s most enduring, challenging and madcap traditions insist that plunging into icy water after a run on Jan. 1 is a refreshing and...

No Such Thing as Too Much Fun: A Great 2016; Hopes for an Even Better 2017

When it comes to adventurous fun my philosophy has always been too much is never enough, so when I look back at the highlights of the past 12 months, as I typically do when the calendar is about to flip, I can honestly say that 2016 was a...

Hey, Has Anybody Else Noticed It's Gotten A Little Chilly?

I guess I first realized the temperature had dropped a few degrees when I went out for a 5-mile run this morning and noticed that my eyelids had started to freeze shut, which loyal readers will recognize as Level IV on the Fagin Frigidity Index,...

Granola Munchers Vs. Snickers Gobblers: Conflict Over Plans for a Hotel on New Hampshire's Mount Washington

The first time friends and I trudged up New Hampshire’s Mount Washington in winter the frozen peak might as well have been Antarctica – hurricane-force winds and blinding snow battered us, the only climbers that day atop the highest...

How to Build a Stone Wall in 14,863 Easy Steps

I realized long ago that you’re never really finished building a stone wall, even after you’ve dragged and hefted into place what seemed like the final boulder, exhaled mightily and stepped back to admire your work.

Just in Time for the Holidays: Fagin's Annual Gift Catalogue for the Discerning Outdoorsman and Outdoorswoman

How often does this happen to you: You’re merrily tearing through the woods in your four-wheeler and come to what looks like a shallow stream but turns out to be a deep, water-filled ditch, so your beloved machine sinks like a stone beneath...