A big bull American alligator can rightfully be considered the boss of whatever waterway he makes his own, but – as with any of the world's apex predators – he's still got plenty to worry about when it comes to human beings.

And people-trouble for gators doesn't just come in the form of bullets, as a recent discovery out of the state of Georgia goes to show.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division posted a Facebook photo last week of the carcass of a large alligator – just shy of 3.7 metres (12 feet) – retrieved at a lake in Hamburg State Park. The gator (almost assuredly a male, given the size) had managed to get his hulking head through a discarded tyre, which then became stuck around his forequarters. The result? What likely was a miserable and drawn-out death.

Image: Law Enforcement Division - Georgia DNR via Facebook

"This is a prime example why our game wardens take litter and dumping so seriously," the agency wrote in its post.

Chucking a worn tyre into the nearest body of water certainly is a low-hassle disposal method, but it's a terrible one – and not just because it might ensnare a decades-old alligator boss. Scrap tyres emit toxins as they slowly break down that pollute aquatic environments, plus soil and air. Junked on dry land, meanwhile, they collect rainwater and, notoriously, transform into mosquito-breeding cesspools. Tyre heaps can ignite fires, too – and, needless to say, that burning rubber releases some nasty stuff into the atmosphere.

Given that Americans motor through close to 300 million tyres every year, proper disposal is essential to cut down on these sorts of problems. (And it goes without saying that this isn't an issue confined to the US.) Recycled tyres can go to make new ones or be used in everything from basketball courts to road surfaces. 

If the tread's tapped out on your tyres, investigate your local options for retiring them in an environmentally friendly manner: besides sanitation departments and designated recycling facilities, many tyre retailers will accept scrap tyres.

And listen, don't forget that tried-and-true option for extending the usefulness of a worn-down tyre: ye olde tyre swing. (Just make sure it doesn't become a bloodsucker nursery, OK?)

If you ever need inspiration to make the (really very reasonable) effort to pursue responsible recycling, just think of this Georgia gator: do it in his memory!



Top header image: Pixabay