Tennessee fisherman reels in an alligator as wildlife officials say reptiles are 'expanding their range'

A fisherman in Tennessee has reeled in an alligator that wildlife officials suspect was “being illegally held in captivity and possibly released” into a lake in the eastern part of the state.

The unusual catch of the 3- to 4-foot-long reptile in Norris Lake on Monday comes as state wildlife officials say that alligators are “naturally expanding their range into Tennessee from the southern border states.”

“While the origin of the alligator is unclear, it is evident that it was being illegally held in captivity and possibly released into Norris Lake,” Matthew Cameron, regional communications coordinator for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA), told The Associated Press.

The agency says when their Union County wildlife officer arrived at the scene Monday, the fisherman had pinned the alligator to the ground behind its head and told him he caught it on a swim bait.

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An alligator was caught by an angler in Norris Lake in Union County on Monday, March 18. (Rick Roberts/Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency/AP)

The TWRA said, “This particular alligator was temporarily housed at Little Ponderosa Zoo until a permanent home was found.

“In previous years a 7-foot alligator was videoed by TWRA Region 1 personnel in West Tennessee at the Wolf River WMA in Fayette County. There have been several confirmed sightings of alligators in Southwest Tennessee in recent years,” it continued.

“Alligators are naturally expanding their range into Tennessee from the southern border states,” the agency added in a statement. “TWRA has not stocked any alligators in Tennessee. Alligators expanding into Tennessee is just another species that we must learn to coexist with like many of the other southern states.”

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New York Department of Environmental Conservation officers secure an 11-foot alligator for transport after it was seized from a home in Hamburg, New York, on March 13. The home’s owner had built an addition and installed an in-ground swimming pool for the 30-year-old alligator, which has blindness in both eyes and spinal complications, among other health issues. (AP)

State wildlife officials described the alligators as “opportunistic feeders that prey on fish, turtles, snakes, frogs, and waterfowl” and that they will occasionally “feed on larger animals such as possums, raccoons, and deer.”

“TWRA would like to remind everyone that possessing or releasing alligators in Tennessee is illegal and poses safety and ecological risks as well as alligators are a protected species and catching or shooting one is a violation of the law,” it also said. “If you come across one while exploring the outdoors in West TN, leave it alone and enjoy Tennessee’s unique biodiversity.”

Tennessee wildlife officials describe the alligators as “opportunistic feeders that prey on fish, turtles, snakes, frogs, and waterfowl,” among other food sources. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

Last week, New York wildlife officials seized an alligator from a home in upstate New York, where it was being kept illegally.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Greg Norman is a reporter at Fox News Digital.

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