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Gate City gator was free for weeks, owner says

Rain Smith • Jul 24, 2018 at 3:04 PM

GATE CITY — Wildlife officials are continuing to investigate the case of a 4-foot alligator they fatally shot in a Scott County creek, while the reptile’s owner told the Times News it had escaped “about two weeks ago.”

“It had been hanging around the house. We had been trying to snare him with a fishing pole,” said Chuck Hurd, who admitted he did not alert authorities.

“He was only 4 feet,” added Hurd. “It’s not like he was a man-eater.”

Exotic, non-native animals can be owned in Virginia through permit. Hurd says he acquired one for the alligator when it was a baby five years ago. Likewise for another that he still has.

However, Virginia also has laws against keeping an alligator “in any manner that will permit its escape or to knowingly permit the reptile to run at large.”

According to Lee Walker, outreach director at the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, any charges against Hurd have not been determined and an investigation is ongoing. He said such cases usually net misdemeanors punishable by fines, jail time or a combination of both.

On Thursday, individuals reported spotting the alligator around a swimming spot in Big Moccasin Creek along Slabtown Circle, near Hurd’s home. Due to the area being popular with the public — and concern for the safety of wildlife officials tasked to corral the gator — Walker reports it was “dispatched” from the creek with lethal force on Friday.

Hurd says such an ending is why he didn’t report the animal’s escape. But when questioned by the VDGIF after the incident was over, he says he “told them exactly what happened.”

“I’ve not been able to take care of them because of dialysis and being weak,” Hurd told the Times News. “I have a guy taking care of my tortoises and alligators. He went in the building to feed the tortoises and left the door open. It (the alligator) walked right out the door.”

Hurd is a reptile enthusiast. He says that prior to becoming ill, he conducted outreaches to educate the public and presented programs for groups.

Hurd had named his alligators William and Mary. As of Tuesday, he hadn’t checked the sex of the one still in captivity. Thus, he didn’t know which one had been lost.

Meanwhile, the VDGIF didn’t expect any decisions on the case for at least a week.

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