DNR seizes hundreds of alligators - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

DNR seizes hundreds of alligators

November 10, 2004

Atkinson County- It takes nearly a dozen men to capture and wrestle just one 800 pound alligator from Winston Wright's forty acre pond, reptiles the Department of Natural Resources says he's been illegally raising for decades.

"He had a license to farm some alligators a number of years ago, but did not meet the requirements to continue that license," says Department of Natural Resources Public Affairs Coordinator Lisa Doty.

Doty says Wright illegally fenced in wild alligators that were on his Atkinson County property.

"That was kind of taking illegal possession of wildlife, and at the same time he had bought some farmed alligators," she explains.

Those farm-raised alligators are mixed with the wild ones, making it impossible to tell the massive reptiles apart, but Wright and his son say a former DNR official gave them permission to co-mingle them.

"He said if you'll go to Florida and buy some gators which are raised on a farm that's got numbers, he said, gators will be gators anticipating what's in this pond is yours as well as what you bought," says Wright's son, Kevin Wright.

After several attempts dating back to 1988, DNR and Wright reached an agreement. According to this consent form signed by both parties, Wright was to negotiate a price or remove all of the alligators from his property by October 21st, or he would voluntarily permit officers to sell and take them away.

But, Wright claims in a meeting last March, Governor Sonny Perdue extended that deadline.

"The governor said if he needs more time, time is not the problem. He'll get more time," says Winston Wright.

He says its was a verbal agreement, an agreement the DNR says they have no knowledge of.

"That's over 40 years of my daddy's life that's basically going down the drain," says Wright's son.

Now because they've been co-mingled all the alligators will be carted off Wright's property including those he purchased years ago.

DNR officials say removal of the alligators could take anywhere from three days to a week. The alligators will be transported to a buyer in Florida who bid on the purchase of the reptiles.

Posted at 10:20 PM by elaine.armstrong@walb.com