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–Wilcox County made the news when Mandy Stokes harvested the World Record Alligator
See the article at al.com or here: http://www.al.com/outdoors/index.ssf/2014/08/its_official_mandy_stokess_all.html
AUTAUGAVILLE, Alabama – Alabama is officially the new home of the world record American alligator.
The huge animal killed by Mandy Stokes and her crew from Thomaston earned world record status Friday morning after a pair of master measurers from Safari Club International put a tape to its skin and head and came up with a total of 15 feet, 9 inches.
That’s 13 inches longer than the current SCI world record 14-foot, 8-inch gator killed by Thomas Bass of Trinity, Texas. Even though Bass killed his alligator in 2007, it has only held SCI’s top spot since June.
The detached head measured 32 inches and the skin stretched the tape to 157.125 for a total of 189.125 inches. Since SCI only measures to the closest half inch, the Stokes Gator’s official world record length measurement was rounded down.
By default, the Stokes Gator is also the new No. 1 in Alabama, though the state doesn’t have an official record-alligator program. It beat the 14-foot, 2-inch, 838-pound animal killed by Keith Fancher and his crew in 2011.
SCI accepted the Stokes Gator’s official weight as 1,011.5 pounds, though total length is its determining factor in ranking American alligators.
That weight was determined on an Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries digital scale the Aug. 16 morning Mandy Stokes, her husband John Stokes, brother-in-law Kevin Jenkins and his children Savannah, 16, and Parker, 14, caught and killed the animal in Mill Creek, a tributary off the Alabama River about 2 miles above the William Dannelly/Millers Ferry Lock and Dam.
The alligator’s excessive bulk broke a winch mechanism used to weigh average animals and the scale had to be rigged onto a backhoe so the animal could be lifted off the ground.
Mandy Stokes sounded shocked to learn of the gator’s official length from SCI Master Measurer Randall Bush, who called her from Ken’s Deer Processing where the gator’s head and skin have been since Ken Owens skinned out the carcass 10 days ago.
“Oh my word,” Stokes said. “It just keeps getting better!”
SCI Master Measurer John Chitwood said in many cases when he’s called to measure an animal, it often does not live up to expectations. That was not an issue with the Stokes Gator.
“It’s nice to have something like this alligator that exceeds people’s expectations.” — SCI Master Measurer John Chitwood
“Usually when people call us to measure something, it’s often not as big as advertised,” said Chitwood. “It’s nice to have something like this alligator that exceeds people’s expectations.”
Both Chitwood and Bush have measured potential record animals all over the world. Bush has even hunted alligators in Louisiana, but he wasn’t prepared for this gator’s size.
“The head is what impressed me the most, more so than the skin even,” he said. “I’ve fished for alligators in Louisiana and the biggest I’ve ever caught was a little less than 12 feet. Now, I thought that alligator was big, but the head on this one is twice the size as what was on that 12-footer.”
The alligator had been measured several times, with the shortest straight-line measurement on its belly coming in at 14 feet, 9.25 inches and the longest with it on its back at 15 feet, one-half inch.
Owens, who runs Ken’s Deer Processing, Ken’s Wildlife Images and The Minnow Bucket in Autaugaville, is scheduled to do a full-body mount that should be done in early spring.
Mandy Stokes has indicated the completed mount will be made available for public display.
Until then, she was reminded recently that she doesn’t have any mementos from her hunt other than pictures.
“I don’t have a thing to remember it by and it’s going to be too big to bring it home once Mr. Ken gets it mounted,” she said. “I need some kind of trophy or something.”
On a serious note, Stokes said she felt confident the alligator would be a record, but she did not expect it to measure that long.
“I’m just shocked. From what we already knew, I honestly figured it would have been under 15 feet. Now I just want the animal to be recognized for what he is. I know a lot of people don’t understand why we killed him, but since we did, we just as well admire its beauty,” she said.
WFF Assistant Wildlife Section Chief Keith Gauldin, who was also on hand Friday to watch the SCI scorers at work, said he never expected to see a gator this big come from Alabama water.
“If anybody would have asked me a few weeks ago if I thought someone would kill one bigger than 14 feet, 2 inches, I would have said it was unlikely,” Gauldin said. “If someone asked me that same question today, I’m saying, ‘No comment.'”