Escaped alligator leads to charges for Harlan County man

Published 1:00 pm Saturday, July 9, 2022

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A Harlan County man is facing multiple charges after allegedly bringing an alligator into Kentucky and then not reporting the animal’s escape.

Cameron Cornett, 23, of Big Laurel, was cited on June, 23, by Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Officer Kyle Clark.

According to a news release, Clark and Wildlife Technical Aaron Smith acted on a tip received on June, 19. The pair began a search that evening in the Greasy Creek area near KY 2008. The alligator was located the next day. Once the animal was located, they left the area to retrieve equipment to aid in capturing the 4.5-foot-long alligator. Upon returning to the scene, the pair discovered blood on a rock next to the creek and a blood trail which led to the road.

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The release states Clark’s then began an investigation which led him to the residence of a relative of Cornett. When he arrived at the residence, blood was found in the bed of a pickup truck. Clark spoke with Cameron’s relative, who advised Cornett had obtained the alligator in Florida and transported the animal to Kentucky, keeping the alligator in an enclosure in his front yard. The animal had escaped the enclosure approximately three weeks before Clark spoke to the relative. Eventually, a video of the alligator appeared on social media.

The release further states the relative informed Clark that Cornett had become concerned about the attention the animal was receiving and instructed that the animal be killed. The relative and another person killed the alligator. Clark seized the animal’s carcass.

“Kentucky Fish and Wildlife occasionally receives reports of alligators and caimans in state waterways,” Clark said. “There are reasons why we have laws in place prohibiting the importation of exotic and inherently dangerous animals.”

Potential transmission of diseases and introduction of species that can cause harm to the native wildlife, people, pets and livestock are two reasons for laws prohibiting importing inherently dangerous and exotic animals into Kentucky, states the release.

“Alligators don’t make good pets. Even a smaller one can injure a person,” Clark added. “When an alligator grows beyond a person’s capacity to care for it, oftentimes it gets released into the wild, and then it becomes a potential danger to others. Besides, it’s unlikely to survive through the winter.”

Cornett was charged with illegally transporting and possessing an inherently dangerous exotic animal (non-native), failure to report escape of an inherently dangerous exotic animal to the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife, and possessing exotic animals without a permit.