Texas Parks and Wildlife confirmed that the alligator who attacked and killed 28-year-old Tommie Woodard was fatally shot this week.
Woodard was killed while swimming near a marina in Orange, Texas last Friday. Witnesses said the man disregarded numerous signs warning visitors about alligator activity, and mocked the animals before plunging into the water. Game wardens recovered some of his remains from Adams Bayou later in the day.
“A game warden crew searched the area nightly throughout the weekend for a large, aggressive alligator with no success,” stated a press release from Texas Parks and Wildlife.
Then on Monday, officials received notice that a large alligator carcass was dropped off at the same marina Woodard had visited before his death. The alligator was apparently shot and killed by a man who only identified himself as “Bear,” and had left before wildlife officials arrived to retrieve the carcass. Remains belonging to Woodard were located inside the reptile.
“He had to go,” Bear told the Beaumont Enterprise regarding the alligator. “That’s what happens when you kill someone.”
The man reportedly baited the alligator with chicken from a boat and shot the reptile when it came close. Authorities said it is illegal to kill an alligator unprovoked, even if the animal in question is a man-killer. Wardens said Bear should have instead contacted wildlife officers or nuisance trappers rather than dealing with the animal himself. The illegal harvest of an alligator in Texas is a class C misdemeanor and carries a fine of up to $500. In the end, officials decided to slap Bear with a warning citation instead of more serious penalties in the belief that the man killed the gator to protect his family and others.
“In no way do we condone the killing of a nuisance alligator without proper authority. Either Texas game wardens or a licensed nuisance alligator hunter would have been more appropriate to handle the situation. Either way, because of its aggressive behavior, the alligator would have to be killed,” said Colonel Craig Hunter, Law Enforcement Director for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “If there is a positive that can come out of this case, it’s an educational opportunity for us to reinforce to the public not to feed or disturb alligators and that there are proper procedures for handling nuisance alligators.”
Woodard’s death is believed to be the first alligator-related fatality in Texas history. Officials once again reminded the public to heed “no swimming—alligator” signs to avoid future attacks.
You can watch interviews with witnesses below:
“I asked him, ‘Please do not go swimming, there’s a bigger alligator out here, please stay out of the water.’ And the next thing I know this girl is screaming, ‘An alligator’s got him, an alligator’s got him,'” Michelle Wright, a friend who saw the attack, told KPRC.
Witnesses recalled Woodard shouting obscenities regarding the animals and jumped in. Officials later recovered human remains from the alligator killed on Monday, confirming it as the one that attacked Woodard. An examination of the body showed that the victim likely died from drowning rather than the wounds inflicted by the reptile.
“This was a truly horrific tragedy that unfortunately became compounded by the actions of an individual who felt compelled to take matters into his own hands for the safety of his family and others,” said Hunter.