The University of Louisiana at Lafayette public safety officials are debating what course of action to take after the school experienced its third alligator escape in less than six weeks Monday.
Associate Director of Public Safety Joseph “Joey” V. Pons IV, who heads the environmental health and safety/risk management office, said the university is monitoring the situations as they happen.
“Of course we are monitoring the situation,” said Pons. “In our experience, this normally takes care of itself. In the past, when one or more of the gators will simply not stay in the lake, then we can contact the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries for help.”
Pons said if any of the gators become too problematic, the university officials call LDWF’s “nuisance alligator program” to remove the alligator from campus.
According to Sgt. John Carter with the University of Louisiana Police Department, an alligator managed to escape Cypress Lake around 1:47 p.m.
Photo credits, from left to right: Alice Ferguson, Courtney Begnaud, Ciara Matthews.
Ciara Matthews, a 21-year-old junior biology major, was able to take a picture of the escaped alligator.
Witnesses said the gator crawled over the wall and lay on the sidewalk between the Student Union and Burke-Hawthorne Hall. This is the third alligator to escape from the lake this semester. The first escape occurred on March 17, and the second one was 11 days later on April 14.
Carter said he responded to the reports of the latest alligator escape Monday.
“Basically today, we got a call about the alligator being out of the enclosure and on the sidewalk,” Carter said. “Students were concerned about it, so they asked us to go over there and attend to it.”
Carter said the process of returning alligators to the lake requires the use of a catch pole — a long aluminum pole that has a rubber-coated cable that runs through the pole and forms a loop on one end. Carter said the loop cord tightens around the animal but doesn’t hurt it.
Today, however, Carter said the process wasn’t necessary because he believes the alligator is the same one that has escaped all three times.
“We didn’t have to do that, because that alligator has been synched before,” Carter said. “He knew what was coming, so all I had to do was brush the pole along his back. He turned around and jumped into the pond back into the lake himself.”
Officer Elizabeth Pitre said she believes the heavy rainfalls in the Lafayette area contribute to the alligators’ ability to get out.
Pons said that, despite the frequent escapes, the alligators offer visitors to Cypress Lake the chance to experience a piece of quintessential Louisiana life.
“Cypress Lake is a wonderful wetland habitat that gives our campus community, which comprises of people from all over the world, an opportunity to witness some of the local topography and natural beauty of the south Louisiana region,” said Pons. “They can do this without getting a boat. They can do this at their leisure and at their own pace — not relying on only one visit to see everything.
“It’s something that makes our campus truly unique, and in my opinion, very inviting to visit and take part in university life whether you live here or not. Cypress Lake is a precious gem in the heart of our campus.”
Although some students said they think raising the walls will fix the problem, Carter said he thinks there are other, better options, and that he has proposed some of his ideas to different people.
“If you put a wall higher, then you’re not going to be able to see as much and it’s just gonna take away from it all,” Carter said. “I’ve suggested putting some coated steel cables on a bracket. If you paint it black, it just kind of blends in with the background and it doesn’t take away from the scenery.”
Carter advised students to keep their distance from the alligators.
Pons offered a list of things to do should you happen upon one.
- REMEMBER THAT THESE ARE WILD ANIMALS. LIKE ALL WILD ANIMALS, ALLIGATORS CAN BE DANGEROUS IF NOT TREATED WITH RESPECT.
- DO NOT APPROACH AN ALLIGATOR (IN THE LAKE OR OUT OF THE LAKE).
- DO NOT CORNER AN ALLIGATOR AND UPSET OR PROVOKE IT.
- ALWAYS ALLOW FOR SOME ROOM FOR IT TO ESCAPE TOWARD THE WATER.
- DO NOT FEED THE ALLIGATORS. THIS ENCOURAGES THEM TO INTERACT MORE WITH HUMANS, WHICH CAN CAUSE ACCIDENTS. THE UNIVERSITY DOES NOT FEED THE ALLIGATORS. THEY MUST FIND THEIR OWN FOOD FROM WITHIN THE LAKE HABITAT.
- NESTING MOTHER ALLIGATORS CAN BE AGGRESSIVE. IF YOU DISCOVER AN ALLIGATOR NEAR A NEST IN OR AROUND THE LAKE, STEER WELL CLEAR OF IT.
- BE AWARE OF YOUR SURROUNDINGS WHEN WALKING AROUND THE LAKE – ESPECIALLY AT NIGHT WHEN THE VISIBILITY IS NATURALLY NOT AS GOOD AS DURING THE DAY.
- IF AN ALLIGATOR IS DISCOVERED OUT OF THE WATER, NOTIFY A MEMBER OF THE STUDENT UNION STAFF OR UNIVERSITY POLICE.
“We are thankful that these animals give us an opportunity to see how they live,” Pons said. “As long as we respect their space, in addition to some good common sense, they will continue to do so in the future.”
For our story on the first escape, click here.
For our story on the second escape, click here.