BROOKELAND, Texas — One Southeast Texas family is making Lake Sam Rayburn a little safer this week after capturing a 12-foot alligator in a reservoir that's frequently visited by families.
Gary Saurage is an alligator hunter and the owner of Gator Country Adventure Park in Beaumont. He received a call from the the Texas Parks and Wildlife about a large, 12-foot alligator in a populated area late last week.
On Tuesday morning, His daughter Callie Saurage and her fiancé Damon Bailey joined Gary to head to Sam Rayburn Reservoir north of Jasper to capture the reported alligator. When the team arrived, Gary says he knew the alligator had been fed by people.
“The first time I cast my rod to get my hook on his head, I missed and it hit up toward his face and he stood up like he was trying to feed on it. I do that at [my] park all the time. They act the exact same way. Make no mistake, after 20 years of doing this, I promise you that alligator thought that we were feeding it,” Gary said.
After two hours, the team captured the alligator. Gary could tell the age of the animal just from looking at it's skin. He says it was an older alligator, between the ages of 50 and 55-years-old. The alligator weighed approximately 650 pounds.
As a nuisance alligator hunter, Gary works closely with other state agencies. He says capturing these large reptiles is a process.
“Once Texas Parks and Wildlife issues that complaint number, that’s when the complainant calls me and gives me the complaint number. When I receive that complaint number, that makes me legal to catch that specific alligator, only.”
Gary says he often hears people’s concerns about the capturing of wildlife animals and alligators.
“I deal with this everyday. ‘Why would you move that alligator?’ Well first off, it’s my job, and I’m told to do that by Texas Parks and Wildlife. And I have to do it or I’ll get fired. Number two, I believe that over time if you leave a big alligator next to people long enough, something bad is going to happen,” Gary said.
The Beaumont alligator hunter has caught 145 alligators this year alone. Oddly, he’s recently captured three large male alligators within close range of one another at Sam Rayburn Reservoir.
“Two of those alligators were 12-foot and one was 13 foot 1 inch, and they were all within 2 miles of each other and that is odd. That is extremely, extremely odd for three big male alligators to be that close together,” Gary said.
After the team captures the nuisance alligators, the reptiles are taken back to Gator Country to live in ponds among other alligators similar in size. Gary says he makes the alligators' living environment as “natural as possible.”
“For example, you’ll see a lot of these parks, they have these concrete ponds, I don’t do that," Gary said. "Because, I know what happens to their feet over the years when they’re stepping on that concrete. It actually acts like sandpaper and totally tears their feet up, and it’s just horrible. I leave all of these ponds in soft mud.”
Gary is the owner of two other alligator parks in South Padre Island and Louisiana. He says he understands what inevitably happens to large alligators that appear near populated areas when they aren’t taken to an alligator park.
“So, it’s a death sentence for the alligator either way if it doesn’t come to Gator Country," Gary said. "A lot of people don’t know this, I don’t have time to explain this to the whole country, but if you relocate one on specified land, it’s because they’re going to hunt it the next hunting season. And I don’t want them to die, I just happen to love them.”