The Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee are one of the most biodiverse places on Earth.
According to the National Park Service, the region’s ecosystems are home to more than 200 species of native birds, 68 species of native mammals, 67 species of native fish, 43 species of native amphibians, and 39 species of native reptiles.
Alligators are most certainly not one of those 39 species, but an alligator was recently captured in the area by an officer with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.
It was a relatively young gator measuring about 3-feet long. It was found in a Bradley County farm pound in the Appalachian mountain foothills just east of Chattanooga and about 100 miles southwest of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency shared the news about the captured gator on their Facebook page and reminded people that the county the gator was found is most certainly not in the species historic range.
The post garnered a lot of attention, with folks arguing about where they thought the gator came from.
Others made jokes that the little reptile was apprehended with its hands behind its back like it was handcuffed and under arrest.
“Wildlife Officer Dillon Maynard (with assistance from Officers Ben Davis & Barry Baird) recently removed an alligator from a pond. NO, Bradley County isn’t in the alligator’s historic range.”
#dontdumpunwantedpets Wildlife Officer Dillon Maynard (with assistance from Officers Ben Davis & Barry Baird) recently…
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, Tennessee actually isn’t part of the historic range for Alligators at all, although there are some reports of gators occasionally popping up in western Tennessee near the Mississippi River basin.
Back in 2018, a 7 foot gator was spotted at the Wolf River Wildlife Manage Area in Fayette County and state wildlife officials confirmed that warming water temperatures have allowed the cold blooded species to expand their range into the far southwest corner of the Volunteer State.
The Wildlife Resources Agency predicts more and more gators will start showing up in that area and they have started publishing information for how folks can co-exist with them.
It is unlikely that’s where this gator came from though. A more likely origin story is that this gator was someone’s pet that grew too large to care for anymore and was negligently released into the wild.