Three men East Texas men have been charged by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for allegedly taking a 12-foot-7 alligator illegally from Lake Striker, a class C misdemeanor under the department's code. TPWD officials would not release information about the three other than to say one lives in Whitehouse, one was from Troup and the third lives at Lake Striker. According to Game Warden Capt. Mike Hanson, of Rusk, the alligator was taken June 2. Wardens at first did not suspect anything illegal, until a picture surfaced the next day indicating the alligator might have been taken from a boat. TPWD regulations permit alligators to be hunted during a spring season running April 1 through June 30 outside of the reptiles' core habitat area in 22 counties primarily along the Texas Gulf Coast. During the season, hunters may take an alligator by a variety of means if they and the alligator are on private property they have permission to hunt. An alligator may be taken off public waters only by hook and line, with the rig being set on private property. Hanson said wardens Eric Collins of Cherokee County, Chad Gartmen of Rusk County and Brad Clark of Smith County investigated the case and were told by the Lake Striker resident that he had permission from a lakefront property owner to hunt from his property. The property is actually owned and controlled by the Angelina and Nacogdoches Counties Water Control and Improvement District No. 1.
"If this permission was actually granted, it was not valid. This is due to the residents around Lake Striker having to sign an agreement when leasing their lots that they acknowledge the fact that there is no hunting, except for migratory waterfowl, on property controlled by the lake authority," Hanson said in an email. He said the man later admitted he knew of the hunting restrictions on lake property. Hanson added it also was learned the trio actually was about a half-mile from where they claimed to have permission to hunt when the alligator was taken. Lake Striker is a 1,900-acre lake 20 miles east of Jacksonville. Amos Cooper, TPWD alligator program leader, estimated the alligator would have been at least 30 years old. He said he didn't know what the alligator may have weighed, but said recent 13-footers being caught have weighed more than 800 pounds. "Eleven-, 12- and 13-foot alligators are considered rare because we just don't see them anymore. Everyone wants to take the great big ones," Cooper said. According to TPWD records, there were no alligators taken in either Cherokee or Rusk counties during the 2012 spring season. There has been a spring season in Texas since 2007. The cases were filed in Cherokee County Justice of the Peace Precinct 4. Hanson said the three have two weeks to contact the court. If found guilty the trio faces a fine of up to $500 each. They will also be required to pay civil restitution for the value of the alligator. Irma Sanchez, Civil Restitution Coordinator for TPWD said restitution for a 12-foot-7 alligator is $5,300.50.