It came as a big surprise to Laurie Duncan.
This past Saturday, the woman was fishing with her husband and 13-year-old daughter on the Pasquotank River near South Mills, N.C., about five miles south of the Virginia border. There on the river bank, sunning itself, was a seven-foot-long alligator.
American alligators are common in parts of the Tar Heel state, but the northern extent of their range had been perhaps 30 or 40 miles to the south of South Mills, along the southern shores of the Albemarle Sound. A state wildlife official says that the gators are moving north as temperatures warm.
In other words, alligators, thanks to global warming, are crawling or swimming closer to Virginia, where Attorney General Kenneth N. Cuccinelli is leading a major political charge against scientific research suggesting that global warming is occurring. He is seeking e-mail and other data from a former University of Virginia scientist who says that human activity is contributing to climate change. Groups such as the ACLU, the Union of Concerned Scientists and the American Association of University Professors have filed friends of the court briefs supporting the university. The issue remains in the courts.
One wonders whether the alligators will eventually reach Richmond, perhaps swimming up the James River. But if they do, will Cuccinelli notice?