Just a week ago, officials captured two alligators in separate events in Juncos and Comerio. Weeks earlier, another alligator had been caught at a Carolina spa, and prior to that capture, a similar reptile appeared behind a residence in the same municipality.
In fact, the alligator population has increased in Puerto Rico, the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER) has acknowledged. But the strategy of the public agency called upon to ensure the control of invasive species like this reptile, places the greatest burden of action on the public. That is to say, in the undesirable encounter of a person with the animal, and attempt to capture, report the situation to the authorities.
“The Vigilant Corps is on alert 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Before that, for example—a long time ago, maybe 20 years ago—controlled alligator hunting was done. Some people would come, sometimes they would be outsiders including department biologists or security guards, and they would go into the Tortuguero lagoon and conduct controlled crocodile hunts. told the lieutenant angel atienza fernandezDirector of the Wildlife Unit of the DNER Rangers Corps.
,that, when the animals are in one place, you can do it, but when the animals are scattered, you don’t know where they are, I have to wait for the complaint, because in Puerto Rico There are so many bodies of water—streams, lagoons, lakes, reservoirs—that there are not enough people to live in those places all the time”, Held.
According to Atienza, the alligator was brought to Puerto Rico 50 to 60 years ago. DNER does not have a current population estimate, but Lt described the number of these reptiles living in bodies of water across the island as “fairly stable”.
The Questions and Answers section of the DNER website describes this as a “real problem”, “Once we start seeing exotic species in our parks and lakes, their populations are already significant.”
“If the population of an invasive species is low, it may be possible to control it if it is addressed early enough. With a large population, unfortunately, this becomes nearly impossible unless the habitat where the species occurs are clearly defined by the limits that allow wildlife specialists to domesticate populations.” Read the answer to the question whether there is a solution to the problem presented by the overpopulation of alien species on the island.
Large populations in Tortuguero Lagoon and Rio de la Plata
Atienza indicated that DNER is aware that there is a “stable population” of alligators in the Tortuguero Lagoon in Vega Baja, and that the river where most of them reside is the Río de la Plata, which is the longest in Puerto Rico. , with an extension covering 58.5 miles from its origin near Cayey to Vega Alta, passing Aibonito, Barranquitas, Cuomo, Comerio, Naranjito, Sidra, Toa Alta, Toa Baja, Dorado and Bayamón.
In other bodies of water throughout the island, “they have been identified, not groups, but individuals,” Atienza said.
Despite the presence of these reptiles in various bodies of water, the lieutenant indicated that there are no warnings or recommendations to use or jump into any lake, lagoon or river tied to this situation. As for attacks on people, “it hasn’t happened, but animals are unpredictable.”
“They’re nocturnal animals, they’re animals that are in a lagoon or a pond and you don’t see it until it sticks its head out to breathe for a while, or sticks its nose out and You can probably recognize it’s there.” , But, for example, telling you that a place has a large population or that you are going to bathe in a river or a lake and you don’t because there are too many crocodiles might happen to you, no,” Atienza said.
Although they live in bodies of water, significant rain events – such as those reported in Puerto Rico in recent months – have caused alligator sightings in unusual places, such as behind a residence in Valle Arriba on 9 November. in Captured Heights Development, Carolina.
“When there are big events of rain, when rivers rise, these animals move in the streams. You’re going to tell me, ‘A crocodile appeared in a woman’s house and it’s far from the river’. Well, This happens because the current carries them, they fall in a place they don’t know, and they start walking. Explained.
According to information provided by the DNER, 200 to 250 alligators have been found in Puerto Rico from 2020 to 2022. The agency could not ascertain the amount per annum. “arrives practically weekly from different parts of the Cayman Islands,” Atienza insisted.
The gharials that have been caught are said to be up to seven feet long. Eggs have also been found and taken out. The lieutenant indicated that a nest of gharial containing up to 22 eggs had been identified. Other animals such as dogs, birds and turtles are natural predators of the eggs if they are not protected. But once the alligators are born and get into the water, “the mother takes care of them and they have no enemies,” Atenza said.
“To tell you it’s going to be eradicated is very unlikely. What can be done is the population is small”, he pointed out.
When the unit he directs receives a complaint, the Animal Corps travels to the site to attempt to capture the animal alive, although there is no restriction on the use of lethal methods. When they are captured alive, they are taken to the species center in the Cambalache forest in Arecibo. From there, they can be donated to shelters and zoos across the United States.