This is a part of southern culture and the 19 year old ringleader, pictured at the snout of the giant gator is a classic example of a southern good ole boy. Please make suggestions on how we priests in the south can create an inculturated southern rite for the Mass. I guess one suggestion would be alligator cinctures and buskens!
AND KATHERINE KOKAL
The Town of Hilton Head Island is investigating the circumstances surrounding a massive alligator’s removal from a lagoon at a Hilton Head Island mini-golf course this week, the town manager said Thursday.
The male alligator’s capture and euthanasia Tuesday provoked outrage, which escalated after photos and videos posted online showed the animal being manhandled after its capture.
On Thursday afternoon, Town Manager Steve Riley said the town is “deeply concerned about the egregious and unacceptable behavior” that took place during the alligator’s removal.
Hilton Head officials are also investigating Critter Management’s removal permit, which the town issued to the company.
WHAT HAPPENED WITH THE ALLIGATOR?
Legendary Golf contacted Critter Management, a local animal control company, on Tuesday evening to remove the gator over concerns for their customers’ safety, said Joey Maffo, the 19-year-old grandson of founder Joe Maffo.
The elder Maffo is known in the community for his presentations at the Coastal Discovery Museum, where visitors can hold baby alligators and other animals. In 2014, Maffo’s company lost its contract with South Carolina Department of Natural Resources for relocating an alligator the state agency’s rules said should have been euthanized.
Joey Maffo, who led the removal of the animal, said a crowd of around 100 people gathered as a Critter Management team captured the 12 ½-foot gator at Legendary Golf.
Although the alligator wasn’t acting aggressively, Joey Maffo said it could have been dangerous to mini-golfers who got too close to the murky lagoon where it was hidden.
Once the alligator’s limbs were secured, Joey Maffo said he invited the bystanders to come closer.
“That was actually on me,” he said. “As soon as I taped the gator, I thought it was a good opportunity to get people to understand how big and powerful it was.”
He said between 20 and 30 people took turns riding the alligator and taking photos and videos.
One Georgia woman posted a set of photos on Instagram and tagged Legendary Golf. In the photos, she’s riding the gator as Joey Maffo holds its taped snout.
“Well this happened today!!” she wrote in her caption. “One for the books!!”
The response from islanders, however, was outrage.
As videos and photos spread of the incident, hundreds took issue with the “sideshow” created by the alligator’s capture just off U.S. 278.
Maj. Bob Bromage, spokesperson for the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, said two deputies responded to the scene once the animal was loaded onto a tow truck to be taken away around 5:45 p.m.
Deputies diverted traffic and attempted to disperse the crowds, he said.
On Wednesday, Bromage said deputies hadn’t responded to the issue. The calls were classified as “disturbances,” not “animal-related.”
MAKING THE ALLIGATOR A ‘FIASCO’
Large or aggressive alligators removed from a populated area usually are shot and killed, but people took issue with the cavalier treatment of the animal.
Those who rode the alligator — Joey Maffo characterized them as mostly excited tourists — were abusing the animal, the critics said.
“I didn’t know how it would look to all the people online,” Maffo said. “They’re just tourists. They want to see a gator up (close). … I was just trying to get everybody to understand how big and powerful they are.”
On Thursday, Joey and Joe Maffo apologized for the incident.
“It certainly wasn’t our intent to exploit this alligator,” Joe Maffo told reporters at Critter Management’s headquarters. “We had no intentions of making it look like a fiasco.”
SCDNR RESPONSE TO CAPTURE
SCDNR issued a written statement Wednesday night stating that the removal and euthanasia of the alligator were legal, but the agency did not condone the manner in which the animal was treated.
“The capture and handling of alligators should be left to experienced professionals, and allowing untrained people to interact with an alligator is irresponsible and puts those people at risk,” alligator biologist Morgan Hart said in the statement. “Agents contracted by SCDNR are not allowed to involve untrained members of the public in the capture or handling of alligators.”
SCDNR spokesman David Lucas later clarified that Critter Management was not contracted by the state agency in this case. Instead, he said, the business was working for the owners of the mini-golf course under a permit issued to the town of Hilton Head.
“The tag and permit used for the removal of this alligator was not explicitly issued by SCDNR for this animal, but for any alligator deemed a nuisance on various properties located within the Town of Hilton Head,” Hart’s statement reads.
The Town of Hilton Head has a Nuisance Alligator permit and tags to use at its discretion within the town limits, according to Hart.
“One of those tags was utilized to legally remove and euthanize this alligator,” Hart’s statement said.
Riley said the treatment of the alligator was outrageous.
“As a Town, we advocate for the protection of wildlife and the natural resources of the environment we live in,” he wrote. “It is unfortunate that people at the scene chose to make a spectacle of this situation and behave in a manner completely contrary to the core values and beliefs we, as Island residents, hold dear.”