Investigation of First Documented Fatal Alligator Attack in Texas Wraps Up
Texas game wardens have completed their investigation into an alligator attack that resulted in the death of Tommie Woodard, 28, of St. Louis, Missouri. Investigators concluded that the unprecedented circumstances of the case, believed to be the first fatal alligator attack in Texas on record, warrant no further action.
The alligator suspected of attacking Woodard was killed by an individual who told investigators he acted out of concern for the safety of his family and others. Game wardens issued a warning citation to the individual for the illegal take of the alligator; his identity is being withheld since no criminal charges were filed. Colonel Craig Hunter, Law Enforcement Director for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department said,
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.
Shortly before 3 a.m. on Friday, July 3, Texas game wardens were notified about a possible alligator attack and missing person on Adams Bayou, an oxbow creek off the Sabine River in Orange County, 30 miles east of Beaumont, Texas. Game wardens recovered Woodard’s body from the creek about two hours later. A game warden crew searched the area nightly throughout the weekend for a large, aggressive alligator with no success.
Mid-afternoon Monday, July 6, game wardens received a call that a large alligator carcass had been dropped at the marina boat ramp near where the attack had occurred days earlier. A subsequent examination confirmed it to be the alligator responsible for the attack on Woodard.
Game wardens then began searching for the person(s) responsible for the illegal harvest of the alligator, a Class C misdemeanor offense carrying a maximum fine of $500. On Tuesday, game wardens made contact with an individual who admitted he killed the alligator out of concern for the safety of others. Hunter said,
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 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.