See You Later, Alligator - Houston Bridge Gets A Scaly Traffic Stopping Visitor

Em Unravelling
An alligator blocked a Houston bridgepicture by

Commuters in the Texas city of Houston had an unusual reason to be late for work on Wednesday afternoon, as the Fred Hartman Bridge on Highway 146 had to be closed. Why? Because an 8-foot alligator decided to use the bridge as a perfect location to stroll and to sun itself, meaning that traffic was brought to a halt while it was corralled by Baytown police and state animal control officers.

I've been to Houston - it's one of the few American cities I have any knowledge of at all! - and I know that its roads are wide and full of traffic. I imagine that the alligator had more to be scared of than any humans did, protected as they all were by the metal of their cars, but nevertheless, it must have been an unnerving sight - an alligator, patrolling in plain sight, at lunchtime on a busy bridge.

However, when I went running in the early morning mist along a Houston bayou river, my hosts in the city told me later that I was very lucky not to have encountered an alligator or a snake! Apparently, they like to lurk in the dawn and dusk when they're less likely to encounter humans - which makes the bridge visitor even more unusual. This one was strolling along northbound lanes and did not seem keen to leave the bridge in any kind of a hurry.

According to the La Porte police department, it's not uncommon to see alligators on roads in general, but to see one on a bridge is less likely and this is the only time in memory that they've found a gator on this particular Houston bridge. Presumably, this is because it involves a bit of a climb, which isn't a feat particularly well suited to an alligator's build.

The story had a happy ending for the alligator, as the police managed to catch and secure it safely, even though the gator backed away from them initially. Five officers secured the beast with duct tape and rope, and took it on a pickup truck for a short ride to the edge of the river below the bridge, where it eventually slid into the river and pottered away. Drama complete.

Turns out that it was a busy day for animals on roads all around the area, though, as the Harris County Sheriff's Office Livestock Unit was called out on the same day to deal with a cow who'd got onto the I-10 East Freeway. Again, the cow's story had a happy ending just like the alligator's, as it was captured and taken back to its owner with nothing more than an exciting story to tell its cow friends later.

I'm not sure I'd have liked to come face to face with an alligator in traffic, but at least it got to have a sunny snooze in the road before it was released. And if you ever come face to face with an alligator in your life, the TPWD say:

If you have a close encounter with an alligator a few yards away, back away slowly. It is extremely rare for wild alligators to chase people, but they can run up to 35 miles per hour for short distances on land. Never make the mistake of thinking that an alligator is slow and lethargic. - TPWD

I'm not sure, actually, whether that particular detail might not explain the whole episode. Maybe the alligator just heard about the speed limit on the bridge and wanted to have a jog in front of the traffic cameras?

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A lover of horizons, hills, and words. Likes to write about uncomfortable things because too many people steer round those parts of life.


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