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Newton County's great outdoorsman
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If Kris Pope's parents knew 22 years ago what they know now, they might have seriously considered using "Danger" as a middle name for their newborn son.

A few months ago, while waiting on two fellow researchers, Pope set alone in a small motorboat in the Prince Williams Sound off the coast of Alaska. Pope had decided to spend the downtime fishing, one of his favorite hobbies.

Using rudimentary equipment, Pope soon found himself struggling with more than most men could handle. After more than 20 minutes, he was able to reel a giant halibut in next to the boat.

The problem was getting the monstrous fish into the boat.

Knowing he lacked the proper equipment, Pope did what any sensible person would do.

"I stuck one arm down his throat and the other through his gill and just kind of bear hugged him into the boat," Pope said.

As it turns out, the fish was worth the effort. At 125 pounds, Pope said the halibut was the in the top 10 percent of its species.

"I found out later that when fishermen go out on bigger boats looking for halibuts that size, they usually shoot the fish first," Pope said.

A recent graduate of the University of Georgia, Pope, 22, was born and raised in Newton County. Pope has loved the outdoors since he was a child hunting and fishing with his father Mike Pope.

"I always liked to be in the woods," Pope said. "And my family always told me to find a job doing what you liked so it wouldn't seem as much like work."

While attending Eastside High School, Pope started trapping animals in the local woods. As he became more familiar with the craft, he discovered there were career opportunities in his hobby.

So when it was time to go to college, Pope chose UGA for its wildlife degree. While earning his degree, Pope was able to learn a great deal about wildlife biology and behavior as well as the ecosystem and how animals interact with their environment.

A few summers ago, while still attending college, Pope was able to work at King Ranch in Texas, the largest range in the U.S. On the ranch, Pope was part of team assigned to transport more than 40 whitetail bucks from one part of the ranch to another.

Pope said part of the crew would fly in on helicopters and shoot the deer with a net gun. He and a few others would then pick up the deer in a pickup truck and transport them to an infirmary. Once the bucks had been checked out by veterinarians, they transported to another location on the ranch.

 "The bucks were moved so they could help repopulate the area where the inferior deer had been eliminated," Pope said.

The experience at King Ranch helped Pope land this year's summer job in Alaska.

"We spent two and half months on Knight Island basically living in tents," Pope said.

Again Pope was part of a team, this time assisting in a research project between UGA and the University of Wyoming studying the impact of river otters on the ecosystem.

"They've been doing this sort of research for years," Pope said. "Really since the oil spill in '89."

The project particularly studied river otter latrine sites. Latrines are spots where otters come ashore, play, defecate and then leave, Pope said. While his part of the project is complete, he said other members of the team will continue analyzing the data for another year.

Currently Pope is working as a nuisance animal trapper in South Georgia. The business he works for mainly focuses on catching alligators, but also freelances as a guide to those with an alligator hunting permit. Pope said 3,000 people apply for an alligator hunting permit every year, but only 500 are given out.

"They come to us because we have the necessary equipment and experience to keep everything safe," Pope said.

When leading a hunting party, Pope gathers up his gear, including a crossbow and flashlight, and takes the customers out at night.

As a nuisance trapper, Pope and his coworkers have to wait until the Department of Natural Resources receives a compliant about the alligator.

Once the alligator is caught, if it is less than four feet long, the trappers will turn the animal over to the DNR for relocation. If the alligator is longer than four feet, the trappers will process the animal and sell the hides and head.

So far, Pope has caught more than 65 alligators.

"It has the potential to get dangerous," Pope said. "The bigger alligators are a little slower, but if they hit you with their tail or head, you can expect a broken bone.

The smaller ones are real quick, so you have to watch out for them or they will get you."

Once alligator season is over in mid October, Pope plans on returning to Covington for a while until he can make plans for his next adventure. He hopes to travel to Chile next summer and help the area with their growing beaver problem.

While he would one day like to have his own business, Pope is content to just go with the flow until then.

"My future is still very much up in the air," said Pope.