Alligator makes surprise visit

He was old, he got lost and he ended up in a parking lot.


We could be talking about a senior citizen who drove to the corner store for a lottery ticket and ended up in New Jersey.

This time, however, we're talking about one of the oldest alligators ever found in the region.

Employees at Savannah River Site's L-Area were surprised recently when a huge gator decided to take a snooze on a sunny spot in the mowed grass near their building.

Shooing it away was out of the question. Because of its mammoth size, security soldiers from WSI (formerly known as Wackenhut) were called to keep the area clear until the gator could be captured and relocated.

Once the creature was apprehended, he was measured, weighed and examined, said Jim Giusti, the site's external affairs officer.

"The gator was measured at 12 feet, 2 inches, and weighed approximately 600 pounds," Giusti said.

What was most interesting was that the reptile was estimated to be approximately 60 years old, which would make him even older the SRS itself.

The site, with 310 square miles of mostly forested habitat, has plenty of old animals -- including another geriatric gator that has been a mascot of sorts for the Savannah River Ecology Lab for almost 30 years.

The three-legged gator, named "Stumpy" for its missing front left foot, was measured and weighed about five years ago and came in at 12 feet, 4 inches long and 630 pounds.

AIKEN ELK: South Carolina has a new group of fans dedicated to one of North America's most popular game animals: the elk.

Of course, we don't have such creatures in this area, but lots of local sportsmen can appreciate the role they play in the outdoor world, said Audi Clemens, an Edgefield, S.C., resident who chairs the newly formed Aiken chapter of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

"Wild elk haven't roamed the South Carolina landscape for well over a century, but the species remains an inspiration for conservationists across the Southeast and right here in the CSRA," he said.

The Montana-based organization, which focuses on habitat enhancement and protection mainly in the West, as well as conservation education and hunting heritage projects nationwide. The Elk Foundation also was a major partner in restoring elk herds to Kentucky, Tennessee and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There are about 550 chapters nationwide.

For more details on the new chapter, or to join, contact Clemens at (803) 360-5461 or by e-mail at

COOKIN' DONATION: Although the annual Cookin' for Kids benefit for Child Enrichment Inc. and the Child Advocacy Center was largely rained out in March, it still generated significant revenue for its beneficiaries.

Dan Hillman, the group's executive director, e-mailed me last week to tell me about the final tally from this year's event.

"I was presented a check from the Exchange Club of Richmond County today from the proceeds that the 2009 Cookin' for Kids generated: $36,000. That is amazing," he said.

Everyone who committed to helping with the March 28 event showed up -- even with an all-day downpour -- and did their best.

The 2010 event has been scheduled.

It will be held Saturday, March 27, with the kickoff oyster roast on Friday, March 26, he said.

First-place winners from the 2009 event, who donated their prize money back to the beneficiary groups, included: Big Game, Green & Gray (GA DNR); Small Game, CEG Kookers; Fish, CEG Kookers; Barbecue, Killer B's; and Best of Show, Georgia Waterfowl.

Reach Rob Pavey at 868-1222, ext. 119 or



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