Wildlife Officer Warns Public After Tennessee Angler Reels in Swamp Monster: ‘You Need to Be Aware of Your Surroundings’

Wildlife Officer Warns Public After Tennessee Angler Reels in Swamp Monster: ‘You Need to Be Aware of Your Surroundings’

You would think that fishing in Tennessee is hardly fishing in the Everglades or on the Louisiana bayou when it comes to the possibility of dangerous swamp monsters taking a bite out of you.

However, one fisherman found out the hard way that you’re not always safe after reeling in what one news station referred to, in charitable euphemism, as an “unusual catch.”

According to WATE-TV, wildlife officials received a call on Monday evening informing them that an angler had caught an alligator in Norris, Tennessee, in the eastern part of the state.

“Although the wildlife officer questioned if the call was a joke, the angler insisted and when he arrived, the officer was met by the angler with a 3-to-4-foot-long alligator,” WATE reported.

And rightly did officials have reason to think it was a joke to begin with; alligators are only native to the southwest portion of the state, where range expansion from areas further south have led to a native population. East Tennessee is far removed from that habitat, however, and the gator that was caught clearly wasn’t a native species.

“Sure enough, the angler had an alligator pinned to the ground,” said Matt Cameron of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency in an interview with WVLT-TV.

“East Tennessee is not a good alligator habitat,” Cameron said.

“They like swampy areas, warmer climates. Here in Tennessee, the winters get extremely cold and they don’t prefer deep-water lakes.”

The alligator is now at the Little Ponderosa Zoo and Rescue in nearby Anderson County.

“I’m like ‘Surely it’s a caiman.’ You know, we’ve had this before, but he’s the real deal,” said Corbin Cox, Little Ponderosa’s director, who was similarly disbelieving when he got the call about the gator on the loose.

“Right now, we’re trying to get him warmed up,” Cox said.

“We’re hoping to get him going until we can move him on to the place that can really do a good job for him,” he added, saying that the zoo and rescue didn’t have the facilities necessary to keep an alligator. However, the places they’ve contacted say they don’t have the room or facilities for the gator.

As for how it got there? Officials say that it had to do with a gator that was likely illegally trapped and kept as a pet of sorts.

“Are there going to be alligators out there? Probably not, but it is possible that someone brought another one illegally into Tennessee and illegally released it,” Cameron said.

“One this size is not a big threat to safety, but it does have teeth and can bite,” he added.

Nevertheless, it could have gotten bigger were it not caught — and Tennessee is, quite surprisingly, a hotspot for wild animals gone amok.

A report from Outforia in 2021 ranked Tennessee as the state with the fifth-most animal fatalities over a 20-year period based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; the period covered 1999 to 2019.


According to KRON-TV in San Francisco, Texas was first with 26 deaths a year, followed by California at an average of 14 deaths. Florida, North Carolina and Tennessee filled out the top five.

Of course, alligators aren’t the major driver of those trends, at least where this gator was found. Bears (both brown and black) and snakes are far more deadly there.

“Are there gonna be alligators out there? Probably not. But once again, it’s possible that someone could have captured another one, brought it into Tennessee illegally and then released it illegally into the water,” Cameron said.

“We don’t think it’s something that the public needs to be overly concerned about, but you know, obviously you need to be aware of your surroundings very similar with other wildlife, just you know what’s out there. If someone were to see another one, don’t approach it, call us. We’ll come and try to capture it and get it somewhere that it is supposed to be.”

In other words, nature is deadly enough in East Tennessee without people bringing in invasive species that just so happen to be deadly. No, you’re not likely to catch one of these the next time you go fishing in the eastern part of the Volunteer State — but that doesn’t mean there aren’t dangers and you shouldn’t be on the lookout for them. Be careful out there, anglers.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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