Escaped alligator has been shot

A 4-foot alligator that apparently ate close to 50 catfish, perhaps several guineas and who-knows-what-else will get the same treatment.

"I'm going to skin him and eat him," said John Palmberg, who shot the exotic animal with a .30-.30 rifle Wednesday afternoon then finished it off with a .22.

Palmberg added the maxim, "If you kill it, you eat it." He added that his fiance's parents are from Louisiana, so he presumed they could offer some cooking suggestions.

As reported in Tuesday's Rolla Daily News, the alligator was a pet of some neighbors of Bruce and Sandy Palmberg, John's parents. Those neighbors told the Palmbergs a year ago that the animal had escaped.

It apparently took up residence on a large pond on the Palmbergs' property.

"We had 50 catfish in there, but this year we've only got about 12," Bruce Palmberg said. "He fished it out, so he came over to this pond."

This pond is one much closer to their house, next to their driveway. It was stocked with bluegill and bass.

"He's got a 5-inch bluegill in his belly now," Bruce Palmberg said. "You can feel it."

The Palmbergs saw the alligator several times in the last few days, and on Monday, Sandy Palmberg spotted it on the pond's surface, floating and apparently enjoying the good life. She called the Missouri Department of Conservation. Two biologists and a sheriff's deputy showed up to try to shoot it. A couple of shots were fired, but both missed the mark.

The state and county authorities turned the fate of the gator over to the Palmbergs.

John Palmberg, who lives in a cabin on the property, said his parents had gone into town Tuesday afternoon. He decided to see if he could have any luck shooting the fish-eating reptile.

"I got my .30-.30, and I saw him about 4-5 feet off the bank. I walked behind the pavilion (next to the pond) and propped up the rifle and shot him," Palmberg said. "I thought I missed him."

Palmberg went to the pond bank and began a search. Then, he spotted the animal. "He was squirming," Palmberg said. "I called Jess (his fiance) and told her to bring the .22. I shot him in the back of the head."

The Palmbergs kept the carcass in a bucket of ice cubes and water, waiting for a conservation agent to show up and, they thought, take it away.

Phelps County Conservation Agent Darrin Wood soon showed up to take pictures and measurements.

"I talked to my boss," he told the Palmbergs. "You can keep it."

The critter measured 44 inches in length, and Wood measured, too, from the tip of the nose to the eyes. It was 4 inches.

"They say that the length in inches will be the same number as the length of the animal in feet, so that's about right," Wood said. "It's almost 4 feet long, and it's 4 inches from the mouth to the eyes."

John Palmberg got his fish scales and found the animal weighed 9 pounds.

Wood said the photos will be turned over to Phelps County Prosecutor John Beger as evidence. It is a crime not to confine a dangerous animal, and it will be up to Beger to decide whether or not to prosecute the neighbors.

After Wood left, the Palmbergs talked about all the animals that had gone to the pond to drink.

"We had geese, dogs and cats drink out of that pond," Sandy Palmberg said.

John said, "You wondered where the guineas went. Well..."

Sandy said, "We had 15-20 guineas and they went to the pond regularly. They're gone now."

Both Sandy and Bruce Palmberg were a bit sad as they looked at the dead gator.

"It's a bit of a tragedy,' Bruce said.

"He could have been in his native habitat and not been shot," Sandy said.