CAMERON COUNTY, Texas (ValleyCentral) — A teenager is accused of killing an alligator at the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, authorities said.
Jesus Rios, 18, was arrested on charges of hunting alligator without landowner consent, according to Cameron County records.
On Sunday, a Game Warden was patrolling South Padre Island when they received a call from Texas Parks and Wildlife.
Dispatch told them at a man reported that someone killed an alligator off of the Highway 106 bridge in Bayview and was skinning it at his residence, a probable cause affidavit from Texas Parks and Wildlife stated.
Authorities found Rios at a home on FM 803 in Los Fresnos.
“At the scene, a cooler with an alligator head, two alligator gar, fishing gear and a .22 caliber single shot rifle were found,” the affidavit stated.
According to the document, Rios told authorities he hooked the alligator and killed it on the Laguna Atascosa Wildlife Refuge with the rifle.
He was taken into custody and transported to the Carrizales-Rucker Detention Center. His bond was set at $1,000.
Chris Dowdy, a game warden captain with Texas Parks & Wildlife, said illegally hunting alligators can lead to several charges and fees.
“Depending on the charges they can face up to a Class A misdemeanor which is up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine. The Class C violations can be anywhere from $25 to $500 plus the restitution depending on how big the alligator is. It could be quite expensive. So, it’s very costly,” Dowdy said.
He said alligators can be hunted with a proper license, permission to be on a property, and during hunting season, — April 1 through June 30.
“Obviously an alligator, his bite is pretty tough to get away from once he grabs you. So, you always have to use caution,” Dowdy said.
Although illegal hunting is a problem, Dowdy said it is also against the law to intentionally feed a free-ranging alligator. He explained that help from the community is vital to prevent illegal activity.
“There’s only 14 of us in the Valley, and the more people that are helping us keep an eye out the better off we’re going to be, the more people we’ll be able to prevent this from happening,” Dowdy said.
Dowdy encourages the community to call Operation Game Thief Wildlife Crime Stoppers to report any illegal activity at 1-800-792-GAME (4263).