A miniature horse vanished a few years ago from Judy Cochran’s Southeast Texas cattle ranch. On Monday, she fired one shot to kill what she says was the likely perpetrator: a 12-foot, 580-pound alligator in a murky pond on her property.
This act quickly earned Cochran her 15 minutes of fame, and not just because of the gator’s size. Cochran, 73, is the recently elected mayor of the town of Livingston, population 5,000 or so, as well as a grandmother of three and a great-grandmother of one.
“You have to be a good shot, because he could just come walking up on the banks” if merely injured, she explained in an interview Wednesday. “They told me to shoot it right between the eyes, and I did.”
Being the mayor, Cochran emphasized that the hunt was legal. Polk County, northeast of Houston, is one of a dozen Texas counties that has an alligator hunting season. It runs from Sept. 10 to 30, and Cochran said her property, which has been in the family for more than 50 years, was issued a hunting permit by a state wildlife biologist. With that in hand, a friend rigged a large hook baited with a days-old raccoon carcass over the pond.
“You can’t just go shoot an alligator because it’s there,” she said. “There are strict rules and regulations.”
The hook was set Sunday night. By Monday morning, it had disappeared under the water, but the thick rope attached to it was taut. Cochran quickly applied and was approved for a hunting license online, and she headed to the pond.
“That’s a monster,” her son-in-law, Scott Hughes, can be heard saying over a video he posted to Facebook of Cochran aiming her shotgun at the animal. “Nana, you better hit him good, because that’s that horse-eater. Get him right behind the brain.”
Cochran’s ranch is home to cattle, as well as dogs and cats, horses and several miniature horses — she’s not sure exactly how many, she said, because “they multiply.” When one mini-horse went missing, an alligator was the prime suspect. There is more than one pond on the property, and it’s near a river, so gators are always around, and this sizable one had made an impression, she said.
“The smaller gators wouldn’t have been able to kill a miniature horse,” she said.
Some have asked why she didn’t have the alligator relocated, but Cochran said she viewed that option as simply passing along a nuisance. The alligator is now with a taxidermist who will mount the head, which Cochran plans to display in her office. Its skin will be tanned to make boots, she said. Its meat will be eaten by Cochran’s family, probably as fried gator balls.
“It’s kind of like chicken nuggets. It may be a little tougher, and if it is, we can probably steam it or let it soak in buttermilk,” she said. “None of him will go to waste.”
Cochran, meanwhile, plans to get back to her work as mayor, Rotary Club member and board member of a bank and two hospitals, all of which she said has “kind of had to wait while I’ve been taking care of this celebrity stuff.”