Reporting from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. — Florida investigators used DNA analysis of alligator blood to arrest a Pompano Beach man on charges of alligator poaching.
Mark M. Montgomery Jr., 22, was charged Thursday with illegally killing an American alligator, a felony.
Alligator poaching is an old, if not particularly proud, South Florida tradition, but the use of high-tech forensics to catch the poachers is not.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission began investigating in October after receiving a complaint from a man who said he saw another man kill an alligator in what appeared to be a flagrantly illegal manner.
At a boat ramp at the edge of the Everglades, he saw the man lure the alligator with marshmallows, shoot it six or seven times in the head with a .22-caliber rifle and load it onto the back of his truck.
"Is that legal?" the witness asked the shooter, according to an incident report by the wildlife commission.
"Yeah," the man replied, and drove off.
The witness noted the tag number of the man's pickup truck.
Interviewed by state wildlife officers, Montgomery denied killing the alligator, according to the report. Asked about blood in the bed of his truck, he said it was rabbit blood from a recent hunting trip, although the wildlife agency said he had never held a hunting license.
Investigators took samples of blood from the truck. At the state's wildlife forensics lab in Boca Raton, a biologist compared the blood with samples taken from the scene of the alligator killing, both from the ground and from spent .22 rounds. The DNA matched, authorities said.
Montgomery is accused of killing the alligator without a permit, without using legal methods and with the illegal use of food to lure it, said Gabriella Ferraro, spokeswoman for the wildlife commission.
Montgomery declined to comment.
Ferraro said she knew of no previous poaching case made using alligator DNA, but she said the forensics lab has used DNA analysis to make cases for the poaching of other animals, such as deer and turtles.