Alligator sighting leads to charges against Harlan County man

Published 8:31 am Friday, July 8, 2022


A Harlan County man is facing numerous charges following an investigation by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources into reports of an alligator in a creek near the community of Big Laurel.

Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Conservation Officer Kyle Clark with an alligator found in a creek in Harlan County. Photo submitted

Cameron Cornett, 23, of Big Laurel, is charged with illegally transporting and possessing an inherently dangerous exotic (non-native) animal, not reporting its escape to the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources and not having a permit or documentation for other exotic animals in his possession.

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Acting on a tip received June 19, Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Conservation Officer Kyle Clark and Fish and Wildlife Technician Aaron Smith searched a portion of Greasy Creek just off KY 2008 that evening and in early morning hours the next day before finding the alligator. Upon locating the 4 ½-foot animal, they left to retrieve equipment to help capture it. When they returned, they found blood on a rock next to the creek and a blood trail leading to the highway.

Clark’s investigation led him to the residence of a relative of Cornett. When he visited the residence, Clark saw blood in the bed of a pickup truck. The relative told the officer that Cornett brought the alligator to Kentucky from Florida and kept the animal in an enclosure in his front yard but that it had escaped two to three weeks earlier.

The alligator’s whereabouts were not known until video of it in the creek surfaced on social media. The relative told Clark that Cornett was concerned about the attention and gave instructions to kill the animal. The relative and another person did so.

Officer Clark seized the carcass. Cornett was cited June 23.

“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.”

Two reasons are potential transmission of diseases and introduction of species that can harm Kentucky’s native wildlife, people, pets or livestock.

“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.”