Evans gator alive; 2 arrested

A large alligator in an Evans pond wasn't killed after all, wildlife officials said Friday. Instead, poachers who butchered another gator in Richmond County dumped its carcass there. Two men have been charged.

 

"This case has taken a turn here that was very much unexpected for us, and for a lot of other folks," said Law Enforcement Capt. Thomas Barnard of the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division.

On Monday , workers at Brown Feed & Seed found the carcass of a large alligator in a pond behind the store off Washington Road, where a 9-foot gator has been living for several years.

The carcass was presumed to be the pond's resident gator, said Donnie Brown, the owner of the property. Someone had beheaded it and removed its tail and two front legs.

After a series of tips from the public and sizable reward offers, officers learned the gator wasn't the one that lived in the pond, which locals had dubbed "Big Boy" because of its size .

A fter being tipped off about the gator killed in Richmond County , wildlife officers visited Mr. Brown's pond late Thursday with spotlights and were able to spot the big gator - alive and well.

"I guess you could say it was like seeing a ghost," Capt. Barnard said.

The Wildlife Resources Division announced Friday afternoon that two suspects had been charged. The division's statement said officers interviewed a man who admitted killing an alligator out of season in Richmond County.

"The suspect stated that the carcass was taken to a different location and processed for meat. The remains of the alligator were then discarded in the pond at Brown Feed & Seed ," the statement said.

Authorities said 51-year-old Bobby Jones of Columbia County was charged with hunting out of season and possession of illegally taken wildlife. Both charges are misdemeanors.

A second suspect, 65-year-old Luther Godowns, also of Columbia County, is believed to have assisted in butchering the gator and dumping its remains. He was charged with possession of illegally taken wildlife and "dumping of egregious litter."

"Our people have been pounding the pavement on this thing all week," Capt. Barnard said. "But if it weren't for the calls we've gotten from the public and the interest from the media, we wouldn't have gotten to this point."

The alligator killed in Richmond County was apparently taken to an unknown location in Columbia County, where it was butchered. The poachers then dumped the carcass in Mr. Brown's pond. So far, officers have been unable to locate or recover the meat and head from the gator that was killed.

Capt. Barnard said officers who initially examined the dismembered carcass in Mr. Brown's pond were perplexed by a lack of evidence at the scene.

"If a gator had been killed and cut up there, you'd think you'd find more (evidence) than what we found," he said.

Georgia's alligator population is estimated at about 200,000 . The state Natural Resources Board created a hunting season for alligators five years ago, with a limited number of permits offered through a highly competitive lottery. More than 5,000 applications were received last year for the 550 available tags.

This year, the number of permits was increased to 700, and they have been awarded for the upcoming season, which runs from Sept. 5 to Oct. 4.

Reach Rob Pavey at (706) 868-1222, ext. 119, or rob.pavey@augustachronicle.com.