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Ikie and his alligators

By Staff
COME AND GET IT Ikie Ethridge tosses bits of bread to one of the four alligators that live in a pond on his property near the Okatibbee Wildlife Management Area. Photo by Marianne Todd/The Meridian Star
By Steve Gillespie/The Meridian Star
Oct. 9, 2001
Alligators don't like Dolly Madison Dunkin' Stix.
Ikie Ethridge of Collinsville has learned that and many other facts since he began feeding four baby alligators this summer in a pond on his property near the Okatibee Wildlife Management Area.
And even though Ethridge is violating the law by feeding the alligators a misdemeanor offense punishable by a $25 fine he still plans to continue making sure the animals have something to eat.
Ethridge, a former educator, named the 30-inch-long alligators A, B, C and D. He can tell them apart based on their shape, color and attitude, saying that A's eyes stick up more than the others and that C is skinny and shy.
Alligators move in
Bill Hamrick, a wildlife biologist with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, said alligators were placed in the Okatibee Wildlife Management area about 25 years ago to reduce the growing beaver population.
At the time, alligators were on the endangered species list. Since then, Hamrick said, the status of alligators has been upgraded to the threatened species list in Mississippi.
He said the state has considered the possibility of a controlled hunting season for alligators because of their large numbers. But, he said, that would probably happen on the Coast where alligators are more abundant.
Hamrick said alligators are a native species and play a role in the balance of life at Okatibbee. Hamrick said wildlife managers discourage feeding alligators; he said they also discourage people from dumping animal carcasses into the water.
Alligators pose threat
Hamrick said that feeding alligators presents a problem for people. He said alligators are "like a lot of things they may be cute when they are little, but when they get big they can be a problem."
Ethridge isn't worried about breaking the law by feeding the alligators. He said state wildlife officials are the ones "who brought them in here. Why don't they take care of them?"
Ethridge said he is concerned for God's creatures and doesn't believe the baby alligators would have settled in his pond or come near him in the first place if they didn't need food.
Last week, Ethridge blurted out a loud, high-pitched trill to attract the alligators. Ethridge thought the alligators might like something sweet, but they quickly spit out the sugar-coated Dunkin' Stix.
When Ethridge's grandchildren visit, he takes them to the pond to feed the alligators. He doesn't see the creatures as a threat, for now anyway. And he isn't worried about possible fines.
Steve Gillespie is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3233, or e-mail him at sgillespie@themeridianstar.com.

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