* Largest Florida alligator recorded: 17 feet 5 inches.
* Largest ever recorded in the United States: 19 feet 2 inches in Louisiana.
* Lifespan: 30-35 years in the wild: 50 years in captivity.
* Speed: Alligators can run up to 30 mph for short distances.
* Communication: Gators make their first noises before hatching. They emit a high-pitched whining noise right before hatching. As adults, they bellow and roar. Their sounds can be heard up to 165 yards away. They also make noises called chumpfs, which is a cough-like purr they use to court.
* Breeding season: mid-April through May.
* Courting behavior: Alligators flirt by touching snouts, bellowing, coughing, rubbing backs, circling, blowing bubbles and swimming together.
* Nesting: Females make their nests from June through early July on mounds of high vegetation or on raised banks.
* Hatching: Occurs in mid-August. Females drop an average of 35 eggs, of which only about four reach adulthood.
* Predators: Young alligators can be eaten by raccoons, snakes, herons, fish, bullfrogs and other alligators. As adults, their primary threats are humans and other gators.
* Food: Alligators eat crabs, fish, frogs, turtles, snakes, wading birds, raccoons, deer, otters and insects.
* Temperatures: Alligators can survive water as cool as 36 degrees and as warm as 98 degrees.
12/22/2016 - Florida woman allowed to keep her clothes-wearing pet alligator
A Lakeland woman will have a happy holiday this year knowing she can keep her beloved, formerly motorcycle-riding alligator.
Mary Thorn has owned Rambo the gator for nearly 12 years, training the rescued reptile into a snuggle-worthy, outfit-wearing show animal.
But last year, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission began an investigation because the 15-year-old gator had grown nearly six feet long, and Florida law requires alligators longer than four feet to have 2.5 acres of land available to them.
Worried that her house gator would be taken away, Thorn asked attorney Spencer Sheehan of Great Neck, N.Y., for help getting an exemption. According to court documents, she reached an agreement with FWC in September, which then issued her a personal pet license in November specific to Rambo. Now she can keep the gator — as long as she abides by certain conditions.
"He can't go out and do public things anymore," Thorn said. "He can't be one-on-one with people and his mouth has to be taped shut. He used to do pictures with kids and stuff like that, but no more."
The alligator came into Thorn's care as a rescue after being kept in a dark closet for the first four years of his life, which Thorn said left him with a skin condition that makes him sensitive to light. Rambo is known in the Lakeland area for wearing fun outfits from Santa costumes to leather jackets, which the Polk County woman said prevents sunburn.
Thorn, 54, said she previously made her income working birthday parties and special events with Rambo, and also gave presentations with him for charity. That all came to a halt with the FWC investigation and will still be banned under her new license.
Thorn said Rambo also must be secured in the back of her vehicle if she needs to transport him. Before, the gator would ride in the sidecar of Thorn's motorcycle or in the passenger seat of her van.
Mary Thorn of Lakeland shares a house, bed and even her motorcyle with a nearly 6-foot, 125-pound alligator named Rambo. She is struggling to keep her beloved reptile after Florida Fish and Wildlife determined she needs 2.5 acres of land to house him properly.
Regularly taking in disabled rescue animals such as squirrels and opossums, Thorn said she takes issue with the term "personal pet" in her new license.
"I don't believe alligators should be pets. In my shows, I preach that," the former alligator farm worker said. "The only reason I have Rambo is because he's a rescue."
Still, Thorn said she decided not to push it.
"In order to keep him I'm not going to argue with them too much," Thorn said.
Despite the good news, Thorn said she is suffering financially because the new license banning Rambo from performing left her out of work. She said she could get another gator shorter than the four-foot requirement to take for public events, but she will not.
"[Other alligator handlers] would take a gator [longer than 4 feet] to a gator farm to be killed and get a new baby one," Thorn said. "I don't understand, because I've got a gator that won't bite and they want me to get another one that would. I just decided to retire."
Though things are tight, Thorn she is glad to know she can continue with planning her annual holiday festivities with Rambo and her other critters — she also has five dogs. She said Rambo will enjoy turkey, ham, and his favorite — green beans — at Christmas dinner with her family this weekend.
"All in all it's going to be a merry Christmas because Rambo is here," Thorn said.
12/16/2016 - Alligator in Sarasota home invasion was stolen
WWSB - SARASOTA, Fla. (AP)
Authorities say someone broke into a southwest Florida mobile home and stole an alligator.
Someone called 911 Wednesday complaining a gator had wandered into his yard. That gator had recently been captured and was living inside a trailer. It's snout was taped and the reptile had a trapper's tag on it. The trailer was broken into and someone stole the gator. No other details were released and it's unclear whether the burglar was looking for the gator or merely stumbled upon it.
Two officers responded and loaded the gator into their vehicle and turned it over to state wildlife officials.
Thursday: Police officers respond to all kinds of calls, but this time, the bad guy was an alligator and not an actual person.
On Wednesday, Sarasota Police Sergeant Bruce King came face to face with the Gator after a call for a home invasion.
The man who owned the home is a retired New York Police Officer, and even he said he's never seen anything like this. Arnold Ring told ABC7 "I had a great career full of the most diversified activity, but I've never seen a Brooklyn cop tackle and secure an alligator."
Sergeant King used to work for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, so he knew exactly what to do.
The gator was then handed over to FWC safely.
4/9/2016 - ‘Monster’ alligator killed in Florida hunt
ORLANDO, Fla. — A 780-pound “monster” alligator slain in a Florida hunt and hauled out of the water with a farm tractor falls short of the state record for length, a wildlife official said earlier this week.
“A big alligator nonetheless, but they are not going to have an official measurement because it’s not going to beat the record,” Tony Young, spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said in a phone interview.
The longest alligator caught in the wild in Florida was measured at 14 feet 3-1/2 inches, he said. The state record for the heaviest gator taken from the wild is 1,043 pounds, according to the commission’s records.
The animal killed last Saturday in a hunt at Outwest Farms in Okeechobee near the Florida Everglades was estimated by farm officials to be about 15 feet long, local media reported.
Outwest Farms charges $550 to $10,000 for hunting alligators up to 13 feet and longer, according to its website.
Farm officials believe the alligator was attacking cattle, local media reported.
The gator was discovered in a pond where cattle came to drink, hunting guide Blake Godwin told local news station Fox 13. The hunters used a farm machine to pull it from the water after shooting it, he added.
Outwest Farms posted a photo of what was described as a “monster” capture on Facebook, where a photo of the large animal dangling in the air from the farm equipment prompted mixed feelings. The post later appeared to have been taken down.
“This is making me physically ill,” one person said in a post.
Another poster defended the kill: “For anyone that is talking about relocating this beast … Why not y’all mess with a 15-foot, 800-pound gator? That gator could easily take your life like he was that cattle.”
7/4/2015 - Alligator kills man during late-night swim
A Texas man was attacked and killed by an alligator during a late-night swim on Friday.
Officers found 28-year-old Tommy Woodward's body floating in Adam's Bayou at 4:30 a.m. Friday, half a mile down from where he was swimming off Burkart's Marina in southeastern Texas.
Woodward was swimming with a woman in the bayou around 2:30 a.m. on Friday morning, when the pair spotted an 11-foot alligator. The woman got out of the water, but Woodward didn't.
"The female that was with him saw the alligator come from underneath the dock here in the marina and said 'hey, there's an alligator," said Orange police Capt. Robert Enmon. "And, he acknowledged it and jumped in anyway."
Police said Woodward's body had puncture wounds to his upper chest and left arm.
Employee Michelle Wright was working when the attack happened. "I come out, take a flashlight, trying to see where he's at," said Wright.
She ran outside when she heard screams. She said the gator pulled Woodward underwater twice. "The alligator grabbed him and pulled him under," said Enmon.
Employees said Woodward would regularly swim in the bayou, along with many others, including children.
"I mean kids are out here swimming in the bayou every day with 3- or 4-footers," said Enmon. "I mean that's not that big a deal."
But after the large gator was spotted near the marina about two weeks ago, the restaurant's owner posted a "No Swimming — Alligators" sign. On Friday, that rule was broken.
Wright said Woodward was drinking before the attack, but police said they can't confirm alcohol was a factor until they receive autopsy results, which are pending.
6/25/2014 - Gator bites cadet in training near Orlando
An alligator was shot dead after it bit the hand of a law enforcement cadet during a training session on how to handle nuisance gators.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesman Greg Workman said that the cadet had a superficial injury after Tuesday's incident in an Orlando suburb of Lake County.
Lake County Sheriff's Office cadets were training with FWC officials about how to handle nuisance alligators.
The cadet tripped while approaching the alligator, which then bit the cadet's hand.
An FWC instructor shot the alligator when it wouldn't let go of the hand.
4/22/2013 - Florida man saves son from jaws of alligator
BOYNTON BEACH - A 6-year-old South Florida boy suffered minor injuries after being attacked by an alligator, federal wildlife officials said Monday.
The alligator attacked Friday afternoon when Joey Welch of Pompano Beach fell into shallow water at the edge of a boat ramp in the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
"I went in it and there was a splash. The alligator just swam into me and clamped my arm," the boy told WPLG-TV.
Joey's father and other bystanders punched and kicked the alligator until it released the child.
"I didn't want to play tug-of-war with the alligator and get his arm ripped off," Joseph Welch told WSVN-TV.
Joey was treated at a hospital for cuts and bruises to his right arm, shoulder and chest, wildlife officials said. His father had a bruised right hand from punching the alligator.
The federal agency said trappers licensed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission captured and killed the 8-foot-long alligator.
"We are extremely relieved the child made it out of this potentially deadly incident with only minor injuries," said Rolf Olson, an official at the wildlife refuge. "This really could have ended very badly. We thank the members of the public who saw this happening and selflessly rushed in to do the right thing."
6/18/2012 - 12-foot alligator causes 2 crashes on I-275
ST. PETERSBURG - An alligator is being blamed for causing two crashes in St. Petersburg.
The Florida Highway Patrol says Bruce Foley struck a 12-foot alligator crossing Interstate 275 with his 2012 Toyota sedan early Sunday.
The gator escaped into the woods but emerged about a half hour later.
Authorities say the alligator attempted to cross the interstate again but was struck by a second vehicle, a 2004 Kia driven by Verna Christopherson.
This time the alligator sustained fatal injuries. The remains were removed by a trapper.
Neither driver was injured in the collisions, though both cars were damaged.
6/2/2011 - Police shoot alligator twice, then realize it's fake
By BILL DRAPER
INDEPENDENCE, Mo. - Police responding to a rare alligator sighting in suburban Kansas City took quick action to dispatch of the beast, shooting it in the head, as instructed, while it lurked menacingly in the weeds leading down to a pond.
It wasn't until a second rifle shot bounced off the reptile's head that the officers realized they had mortally wounded a concrete lawn ornament.
A resident of a subdivision near the pond called police Saturday evening to report that his children spotted the alligator while they were playing in some nearby woods.
After consulting a conservation agent, who told them to kill the gator if they felt it posed a danger, one of the officers shot it twice in the head before realizing something was up, said Tom Gentry, an Independence police spokesman.
"It didn't move," Gentry said. "They inched up closer and closer and discovered it was a mock-up of a real alligator made to look like it was real."
In the officers' defense, it was growing dark when they shot the fake gator and it was partially submerged in the weeds.
The property owner told police that the gator was meant to keep people off his property, Gentry said. Officers told him a no-trespassing sign would have been wiser.
"Now he'll have to patch up his alligator," Gentry said.
Conservation agent Derek Cole said the department has received calls in the past about alligators that had been set free in populated areas, so there was no reason to believe the Saturday sighting wasn't valid.
"The department doesn't get involved in something like that," Cole said. "They asked if they could go ahead and dispatch it if it was a danger, and I said there's a kill shot on alligators, a small kill shot on the head. I said if they can get a shot like that, go ahead."
5/3/2011 - 10-foot Gator Chomps on Deputy's Cruiser
GAINESVILLE, FL - A 10-foot gator took a bite out of an Alachua County Sheriff's cruiser.
Authorities say Deputy Victor Borrero spotted the gator Saturday evening near the Gainesville Golf and Country Club. It attacked the patrol car while the deputy was waiting for an alligator trapper to show up.
Sheriff's spokesman Todd Kelly says the car's front bumper was heavily damaged.
A Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokeswoman said the alligator was put down under the state's nuisance gator policy. Under that policy, the trapper is allowed to keep meat and hide from the gator.
4/25/2011 - Alligator Wanders into Woman's Bathroom
PALMETTO, FL - A woman found an unwelcome weekend guest in her bathroom -- a 7-foot alligator.
Alexis Dunbar says she screamed and the gator hissed when she found it inside the bathroom of her home Saturday afternoon. Her boyfriend propped a small table by the bathroom to keep the gator inside until an officer from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission showed up to take him away.
Dunbar believes the gator used a doggie door on the back porch to get inside the house. Dunbar lives in Palmetto, which is south of St. Petersburg.
Spring is mating season for alligators and wildlife officials urge people to be extremely cautious, especially around water.
11/3/2010 - Hunter nabs largest gator in state history
ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - In the last hour of the last day of alligator hunting season, Tres Ammerman wrangled in the beast of all beasts: a 14 foot 3 1/2 inch long gator, breaking the state record.
The last state record was set back in 1997 and the gator was just over 14-feet. Ammerman’s gator, which he caught just west of Melbourne, is three inches longer and much older. It's estimated he's somewhere between 50 and 60 years old.
Ammerman plans to sell the massive gator to a taxidermist at a $1,000.00 a foot. That's over $14,000.00, a sweet treat for the man who went hunting for a gator Halloween night. “I feel like I hit the lottery. I do, it's just amazing,” said Ammerman.
7/12/2010 - Man charged in killing, eating of gator
SARASOTA HERALD TRIBUNE
A North Port man has been accused of killing an alligator he caught behind his home last weekend.
Witnesses told police Jeffrey Scott Thursam, 33, reportedly bludgeoned the alligator to death with a shovel and then processed its meat.
North Port police reported finding the alligator's carcass while responding to a disturbance at Thursam's home in 6300 block of Otis Road on Saturday evening.
Thursam and another man were arguing about the alligator Thursam had snagged while fishing in the canal, police said. The man said he saw Thursam drag the alligator to shore and repeatedly strike it in the head with a shovel, according to a North Port Police report.
Later, a neighbor watched as Thursam allegedly beat the alligator with a red cooler. The neighbor went outside and told Thursam he could not do that, but Thursam continued, police reported.
Officers found the remainder of the alligator tail in the refrigerator, along with its meat on a plate.
Thursam was arrested and charged with possession of an American alligator. He was released on $250 bail.
7/12/2010 - Alligator bites off man's hand in Naples canal
Florida wildlife officials say a 10-foot alligator bit off a man's hand while he was swimming in a canal with friends.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokeswoman Gabriella Ferraro says 18-year-old Timothy Delano of Naples is recovering at a hospital. Officials managed to catch the gator and retrieve the hand from its stomach, and doctors may be able to reattach the hand.
Ferraro says Delano was swimming with three friends around 9:30 p.m. Sunday when the alligator attacked.
The men swam to shore and drove to a gas station, where they called 911. Delano was flown by helicopter to a hospital.
Wildlife officials say people should stay out of freshwater canals and lakes this time of year because alligators are more active, especially around dawn and dusk.
11/14/2009 - Florida trapper loses gator at school show-and-tell
The Associated Press
November 14, 2009
PANAMA CITY BEACH - An alligator lost by a Florida Fish and Wildlife officer at his daughter's elementary school show-and-tell is likely safe in a nearby swamp and the public shouldn't worry about the animal.
That is the message from Fish and Wildlife spokesman Stan Kirkland, who says some people have called the agency concerned that the 5-foot alligator had electrical tape wrapped around it's mouth when it jumped from the officer's truck.
Kirkland says the tape will eventually work it's way off the alligator's mouth and that alligators generally do not feed in winter months. He says it is bad idea for anyone to try to find the animal and remove the tape.
6/19/2008 - Deputies Reprimanded after Officer Bitten By Alligator
VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. -- Three Central Florida deputies are being reprimanded after an officer was bitten and hospitalized by an 8-foot alligator.
Deputy Keith Baughman, 39, responded to calls of a large alligator loose in the parking lot of the Brightside Apartments located on Caribbean Street in May.
Baughman and other deputies found the alligator roaming the area.
Witnesses said the deputy threw a towel on the alligator, jumped on its back and tried to wrestle it. Baughman was thrown off the back and then bitten, witnesses said.
"His pants ripped up and blood was gushing out and everything," witness Carlos Martinez said. "He started limping away and the alligator was laughing at him. The dude then shot it twice in the head."
The Volusia County Sheriff's Office said a second officer, Deputy Jason Stickles, 27, shot the alligator repeatedly.
"I said, 'Don't shoot it,'" witness Jasmin Harris said. "Just wait until the animal people come out. I don't know why they shot it in the first place. They shouldn't have jumped on it. That wasn't their job."
The alligator was hit but did not die and continued to roam the apartment complex.
A trapper eventually came out and killed the animal with a bang stick.
Officials said Baughman and the other officers received the reprimand for not following policy.
5/16/2008 - Deputy in serious condition after alligator attack
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Friday, May 16, 2008
DELTONA — A Volusia County sheriff's deputy is hospitalized in serious but stable condition after being bitten by an 8-foot-long alligator he was trying to subdue in a parking lot.
Authorities say Deputy Keith Baughman responded to a call late Thursday about an alligator roaming around the Deltona apartment complex. Witnesses say the deputy put a towel over the gator's head, jumped onto its back and tried to grab its snout.
One witness says the alligator "went crazy," throwing off Baughman and biting him on the leg.
Authorities say another deputy repeatedly shot at the gator to stop it. The animal was hit but not killed.
Baughman suffered injuries to his left thigh and knee.
A state trapper eventually caught and killed the gator.
4/1/2008 - Nine-foot alligator closes road during morning rush hour
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) -- Wildlife officials say the alligator that forced one major highway in Broward County to shut down is too big to release back into the wild.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokeswoman Gabriella Ferraro says the alligator measures more than 9 feet and can't be relocated. Instead, it will be killed.
Drivers kept a close eye on the gator Tuesday morning as it slowly moved on the grass behind State Road 7 in the Fort Lauderdale area. It took about an hour for a Broward County Sheriff's Office deputy to block off the area until a wildlife officer arrived.
With traffic backed up, onlookers watched as the gator crept closer.
The wildlife officer was able to snag the gator just after morning rush hour.
No one was hurt.
8/15/2007 - Gator hunting season starts, record number get licenses
By Byron Stout
Gator hunters will hit the swamps tonight in record numbers for the statewide public waters alligator harvest.
“No one expected 4,300,” state alligator management biologist Steve Stiegler said of the number of alligator permit buyers, up 1,500 from last year’s record.
Alligator hunting has morphed from a strictly commercial enterprise to an almost totally recreational pursuit since Florida began its public waters hunts in 1988.
“It’s for the sport,” said Scott Qurollo, 38, of Cape Coral. The advertising agency creative director bought his alligator trapper’s license online for hunting at Lake Istokpoga in Highlands County this season.
“It’s a blast, and there’s camaraderie with your buddies. There’s nothing like it, running around in an airboat and harpooning gators.
“It’s not like sitting in a deer stand. It’s a lot more fast-paced. And it’s at night, which adds a little excitement to it, as well,” said Qurollo, who has been hunting alligators for seven years.
Florida residents paid $271.50 for a trapping license and two alligator hide validation tags, and nonresidents paid $1,021.50. They will hunt specific dates beginning one-half hour before sunset tonight through Nov. 1, in one of 124 alligator management units including public waters in Lee County and the Caloosahatchee River between the Franklin and Ortona locks.
The increase in the number of people with permits was due to a revamped allocation process after a debacle last year. Computer glitches in 2006 allowed 935 commercial hunters to buy as many as 95 permits each, freezing out many sport hunters.
This year no hunters were allowed to buy additional permits during the first week of sales. During the second week, 192 trappers bought additional permits, until the hunt was sold out at 4,492 permits for 8,984 harvest tags.
“The permitting process did what we wanted it to do,” Stiegler said. “It allowed people who wanted to have an alligator trapping license the chance to get it without having to compete with people who wanted additional permits.
“We got a handful of complaints,” Stiegler said of would-be commercial trappers and gator hunting guides. “But I think those people sort of expected this to be the case. They knew we had taken steps to maximize the number of people participating in the program.”
Those who would participate in the hunt with a permit holder can buy an alligator trapping agent license for $51.50.
Sales of permits and agent licenses so far total about $1.2 million for the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
The commission has no estimate on the economic impact of the hunts, but hunters often offset expenses of equipment, fuel and lodging by selling alligators to processors. Hides and meat are resold to local and foreign markets for conversion to shoes, handbags and the ubiquitous “gator bites” at sports bars.
All American Gator Products of Pembroke Pines has set prices for whole alligators on its Web site, alligatorskinsdirect.com.
Hunters can meet All American agents at a number of drop-off points around southern Florida, where they can sell their gators or where the processor will take the gator for skinning and butchering.
Whole gators will be bought according to the yield of hides and meat, ranging from $12 per foot for gators between 5 and 6 feet, to $32 per foot for gators longer than 12 feet. A 5-foot gator yields about 5 pounds of meat, compared to an average of 60 pounds of meat from a 12-footer.
Hunters are hopeful this year’s drought will have large gators concentrated in deep waters where they will be accessible. The reflection of a light from an alligator’s eyes, called eyeshine, is easily visible over open water, but hard to detect in reedy marshes.
Ski Olesky, whose primary business at Lake Trafford Marina & Campground in Immokalee is ecotour airboat rides, has grave concerns about how low water will affect his business.
“The water is so low, the alligators will be sitting ducks right out in the lake. They’re destroying my business because they’re taking all of the big alligators out of there,” Olesky said.
Olesky said it’s big gators tourists want to see, and disappointing numbers of large bulls, longer than 9 feet, reduces repeat business from locals and tourists from all over the world.
“If it’s for the lousy $8,000 or $9,000 they get for the alligator permits (sold for the Lake Trafford unit), it’s ridiculous to kill them.
“I bring a lot of people into a small town and send them a lot of places, to buy gas, to eat and everything else. Everybody’s going to suffer because of this,” Olesky said.
Stiegler said alligator hunters do target the largest gators, filling about 75 percent of tags while averaging 81/2-foot gators in the process. But he said there is an abundance of adult alligators, longer than about 6 feet, in Lake Trafford.
“Lake Trafford has the highest density of alligators of any water body where we conduct alligator surveys,’’ he said.
“He may be right in that there may be a shortage of alligators 12 foot and up. But the density of adult alligators on Lake Trafford is very high.”
7/9/2007 - Alligator wrestlers hurting
People now want to see the reptiles in the wild, not in a roadside show
BY SARAH LARIMER
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
FORT LAUDERDALE -- Wanted: Thrill-seeking animal lovers with cool heads and quick reflexes. Must have finesse, agility and high tolerance for pain. Apply at wildlife parks across Florida, where the alligator wrestler is quickly disappearing.
Alligator handlers across South Florida said there is simply less money, glamour and interest in the profession today than in its glory days, when crowds flocked to roadside shows. While there are no exact figures, no one disputes that alligator wrestlers are an endangered species.
"We're fading out," said James Peacock, wildlife manager at Native Village in Hollywood. "Just like the cowboys and Indians of yesteryear, or the Japanese samurai."
These days, tourists would rather ride on Everglades airboats and view wildlife in its natural habitat, said Nicki E. Grossman, president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau.
"You have to get real. You have to give someone an actual experience, a relationship with the destination," Grossman said. "And I think we've come a long way from the days when alligator wrestling was the big draw."
On a good day, Peacock said he teaches a handful of tourists about Florida wildlife. Years ago, he said, those shows used to draw more than 400 visitors. When he started in the business, he could make about $500 a day in tips. Those days, he says, are over.
Peacock said because of animal television shows and Internet videos, fewer tourists are interested in seeing his presentations.
"The lessons are being taught in their own home, without harming any animals. So that's the positive side," Peacock said. "The negative side is: Did I waste the last 17 years of my life learning how to do this?"
The profession is not one that former alligator wrestler Jesse Kennon would encourage many people to go into these days, especially those who need a steady income.
"You have to realize, an outdoorsman that lives in the 'Glades or deals with animals is a special type of person," Kennon said. "He's not the one that can work in an office. An office is just not for him."
Former Seminole Indian tribal chairman and alligator wrestler James Billie still keeps the finger that an alligator snatched in a jar at his house. Injuries are normal in the industry and wrestlers say they generally are not deterred by a little blood.
"If you do get bit, a lot of times that just means more business," said Jeremy Poss- man, 25, who learned how to handle alligators from a member of the Miccosukee Indian tribe. "Because they're going to come back to see if it's going to happen again."
Possman said his show is not designed to show his strength. He sits atop the alligator and grabs a loose portion of its skin under its mouth to display its sharp teeth. He holds the alligator's mouth shut with his chin and shows how trappers would tie a gator. To end the show, he allows the alligator to open its mouth, extends his arms and rests his chin on the alligator's nose.
Daytona Beach resident Bobby Smith, who watched Possman's show at Everglades Alligator Farm with his family, said that although he lives in Florida, he had not seen the tourist staple until this summer.
"I think they're just getting crowded out," Smith said.
Alligator wrestling is a form of live catch modified for entertainment, Billie said, and as the Indians' need to hunt alligators has died out, so have the shows.
"We don't have to hunt anymore," Billie said. "We eat bologna sandwiches like the rest of the world."
Possman said he prefers the term "alligator handler" to "alligator wrestler," because it lets people know his goal with the show is to pass along knowledge. Possman said today's tourists are turned off by man vs. beast demonstrations that used to be popular.
"Now, a lot of things have changed to conservation," he said. "It's more of conserving it than it would be to try and make a show of it."
None of this fazes Scott Cohen, a gangly 13-year-old with floppy dark hair and a nagging desire to handle the animals. Cohen, the head volunteer at Native Village, has been training as a wrestler by using smaller gators with taped mouths.
Cohen's parents were a bit squeamish at first, but Scott said they have learned to accept his interest. He said he hopes to someday open an animal park and sees a good future in the business.
"I've always wanted to experience handling an alligator," he said.
But there is a difference between handling an alligator and jumping on top of 9 feet of fury.
Scott said he was not concerned about waning business or the job's dangers. At 13, he said, he is fully committed to a life with gator wrestling, whether the tourism market wants it or not.
"As long as I have all 10 fingers, I'm good," he said. "As long as I have all my body parts, I'm fine."
6/26/2007 - One-eyed gator attacks tourist on golf course
By Liz Z Babiarz
Sarasota Herald Tribune
VENICE -- Bruce Burger was playing golf Monday afternoon at the Lake Venice Golf Course when he lost a ball in a pond near the sixth hole and almost lost a limb.
When Burger reached down to fish out his ball, a 10-foot, 11-inch alligator latched onto his right forearm and pulled him in, said Gary Morse of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Burger, 50, used his left arm to free himself and suffered a strained thigh in the struggle, said Morse.
Burger was rushed to the clubhouse by a woman who was playing nearby and heard his screams for help.
"I saw him reach down to get his ball and he yelled ... 'Help. Help. I've been bitten by a gator,'" said Janet Pallo, who was playing the fifth hole and ran over to drive the man to the clubhouse.
"I had the pedal to the metal, but the cart didn't seem to go fast enough."
At the clubhouse, Lake Venice Golf Club General Manager Rod Parry called 911. Sarasota County sheriff's deputies and Venice police arrived at about 5:15 p.m., and Burger was rushed to the Venice Regional Medical Center.
It took seven Fish and Wildlife officers an hour to trap the alligator -- a one-eyed alligator, said Morse.
Burger is visiting from Lenore City, Tennessee and came to play a round of golf at the course at 1801 S. Harbor Drive, said Parry. Officials with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission arrived at 6:45 p.m.
The pond at the sixth hole at the Lake Venice Golf Club has a sign that reads "Beware of Alligator" because the staff is aware that a large alligator likes to hang out there.
Players who frequent the course say they regularly see the alligator in the pond, along with a family of gators living in a smaller pond on the other side of the course.
"If your ball goes down there, you let it go," said Dennis Weaver, who was finishing up his game Monday evening. "Most people have the common sense not to go by the water."
The attack was the second in 18 years, Parry said. The other attack occurred when a player went into the same pond to retrieve a golf ball.
"Unfortunately, that's part of Florida," Parry said. "There's wildlife in these ponds."
6/13/2007 - 4,500 alligator hunting permits go on sale
WEST PALM BEACH (AP) — Permits for alligator hunting season went on sale Tuesday. More than 4,500 permits will be available for the season set to run from Aug. 15 through Nov. 1, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
For sales through June 18, each hunter may purchase one permit allowing two kills. If permits are not sold out, sales will reopen June 19 for additional permits per hunter.
Permits for Florida residents cost $271.50. Nonresidents will pay $1,021.50. The cost for each additional permit is $61.50 regardless of residency.
Hunters killed 6,419 alligators during last year’s 11-week season, a record for licensed kills, according to wildlife officials.
The 2006 increase in kills was not unexpected since the state extended the season by about six weeks and changed regulations that allowed hunters to purchase more than one permit.
Alligators were once nearly hunted to extinction. They were listed as a federally endangered species in 1967 and hunting was outlawed. Public licensed hunting didn’t begin in Florida until 1988, a year after the alligator was removed from the endangered species list because its population had rebounded. Florida deems it a species of special concern, giving the state authority over management and control programs, but wildlife commissioners are now considering removing it altogether from the list of imperiled species.
Biologists estimate there are now up to 2 million alligators in Florida.
5/13/2007 - State considers allowing gator traps
MIAMI — Homeowners may soon be allowed to capture and kill small alligators found on their property, under new rules being considered by state wildlife officials.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials will discuss the proposal at a June 13 meeting in Melbourne.
Still being determined are how homeowners would obtain the necessary paperwork for killing the gators, and how the reptiles would be killed.
‘‘Obviously it is illegal in most if not all incorporated areas to discharge a firearm,’’ said commission wildlife biologist Steve Stiegler.
Under the proposal, homeowners could kill or trap gators they find that are less than 4 feet long.
2/15/2007 - Alligator bites foot of man retrieving golf balls in lake
NEW PORT RICHEY (AP) - A man retrieving balls from a golf course lake was attacked by a 7-foot alligator Wednesday morning, suffering minor injuries to his foot, authorities said.
Vernon Messier, who was wearing a diver's wet suit, was standing in waist-deep water on the No. 5 hole of the Timber Greens Golf Course at about 10 a.m. when the alligator bit his left foot, Pasco County sheriff's spokesman Doug Tobin said.
Messier told deputies he gouged at the creature's eyes and tried to pry its jaws apart while trying to free himself, Tobin said.
Messier refused medical treatment and said he would drive himself to a hospital.
Messier told deputies he was an independent contractor who collected golf balls from the course for resale, Tobin said. A man who answered the phone at the golf course later Wednesday said he was too busy to talk about the incident.
Tobin said he didn't know if alligators had been spotted in the lake before.
"Any time you go into the water in Florida you have to make sure you're extra careful, because alligators are definitely out there," Tobin said.
"He was lucky to get away with the minor injuries he received."
New Port Richey is about 40 miles northwest of Tampa.
11/30/2006 - Florida man pulled from alligator's jaws
MIAMI, Florida (Reuters) -- Florida sheriff's deputies jumped into a dark lake and pulled a naked man from the jaws of an alligator early Wednesday, authorities said.
The man lost his left arm and had a broken right arm and major injuries to his left leg, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said. He was hospitalized in critical condition.
After several people reported hearing screams for help from central Florida's Lake Parker at about 4 a.m. ET, deputies arrived to find the man in the alligator's grasp, the sheriff said. (Watch sheriff tell the story )
Four deputies waded through waist-deep mud, wrestled the man free and pulled him about 40 yards back to shore to a waiting ambulance, Judd said.
"He was totally naked," Judd said of the victim, identified as 45-year-old Adrian Apgar.
"He admitted that he'd been smoking crack cocaine. But still, it's a human life," Judd said at a news conference. "Our deputies don't ask questions, they respond and they save people."
It was unclear whether Apgar had gone swimming or if the creature had snatched him from the bank.
A 12-foot alligator was later plucked from the lake, and wildlife officials said it was believed to be the one that attacked Apgar.
Alligators throughout Florida have been blamed for about 275 attacks on humans, fewer than two dozen of them fatal, since the state began keeping records in 1948.
10/6/06 - Alligator gives family a scare. Father defends his home, family from gator in backyard
By Latisha R. Gray
Sarasota Herald Tribune
Angel Elicerio had only seen alligators on TV before moving to Florida six months ago. This week, he had a live encounter with one in his backyard -- a few feet from his 6-year-old son.
Elicerio, 25, said all he could think about Tuesday afternoon was protecting his son.
The boy went to the backyard shortly before 4 p.m. to see why the family's two caged dogs were barking.
Elicerio said he heard his wife scream for him, and when he went outside he saw an 8-foot gator about three feet from the boy and his dogs.
The couple grabbed their son, and Elicerio went back into the house and got his shotgun. Elicerio shot at the gator three times -- twice while it remained on land and once as it was going back in the pond behind the family's Linda Street home.
"I hit it once in the head," Elicerio said. "I'm not sure if it's dead, but we haven't seen it since then, and the dogs don't bark any more."
Neighbors heard the shots and called 911.
Sheriff's deputies responded and officials from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission set traps in the pond.
No one was injured, but Elicerio said the encounter was too close for comfort.
"I'm from Texas and you don't see gators there," Elicerio said. "You see other things like cows, but you don't see gators."
According to the Fish and Wildlife Web site, gators less than 4 feet in length generally don't pose a threat to people, unless someone tries to mess with them.
Those types of gators are mostly afraid of people and aren't capable of eating anything larger than a small turtle.
People are strongly advised to stay away from gators bigger than 4 feet and to call the authorities.
State law prohibits people from killing, harassing or possessing a gator. Since the gator in his backyard posed a threat, Elicerio was not charged with a crime.
"My little boy was crying for hours," Elicerio said. "He was freaking out, but everyone is OK. We just don't let him go out there any more."
7/24/06 - Teen on gator: 'It tried to eat me, so I'm going to eat it'
ASSOCIATED PRESS DELAND --
A 16-year-old Deland boy said he was bitten by an alligator while dangling his feet in the St. John's River.
Cory Workman told authorities he was skipping rocks while waiting for friends early Sunday.
"Alligators are ambush predators," said Kat Kelly, a spokeswoman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. "Throwing rocks and sticks sounds like fish to them."
The alligator chomped down on Workman's left ankle and dragged the teen into the water.
Workman punched the animal to no avail, and then remembered a technique he saw on a wildlife television program.
Workman shoved his thumb into one of the alligator's eye sockets and the gator released its grip.
He was taken to Florida Hospital in good condition. Workman was expected to make a full recovery.
Trappers were searching for the alligator, which they believe to be 8 to 10 feet in length.
"I told them if they caught it, I want to buy it." he said. "It tried to eat me, so I'm going to eat it."
6/10/06 - Off-duty officer shoots, kills gator in his backyard
Deputy says he acted in self-defense after gator charged him and a friend.
By ANNA SCOTT
Sarasota Herald Tribune
PORT CHARLOTTE -- An off-duty sheriff's deputy shot and killed an 11-foot alligator that charged him twice in his backyard Thursday night.
This latest incident of alligator aggression comes at a time when residents are on edge after an increase in deadly alligator attacks in the past few weeks in Florida.
Alligators are a protected species, and hunting or shooting them is illegal.
But the rising number of alligator encounters with humans has prompted the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to look at alligator deaths on a case-by-case basis before deciding whether to press charges. Even the legal alligator hunting season was expanded this year from one month to more than two. It will run from Aug. 15 to Oct. 31.
"With the increase in alligator attacks and deaths in the state of Florida, we take each one right now and look at it really closely before deciding whether to press charges," said FWC Lt. Jeffrey Rebon.
In this case, no charges will be filed against Sarasota County Sheriff's Sgt. Clint Knowles of Port Charlotte.
Rebon said that Knowles acted in self-defense and used the gun without endangering anyone.
"He did everything correctly," Rebon said.
Knowles told authorities that the alligator climbed out of a canal into his backyard at about 7:20 p.m. and charged a family friend.
Knowles chased the reptile back into the canal, but the gator crawled out again just minutes later, according to a Charlotte County Sheriff's Office report.
He started to chase the animal a second time, but the alligator charged back at him.
Knowles fired at the alligator twice. The last shot, at the alligator's head, was fatal.
Knowles could not be reached Friday, but he told officers that he had the gun for protection and did not intend to shoot the animal.
He said he was afraid the alligator would harm his children.
Rebon cautioned that people should not shoot at alligators without a direct threat but should call the state hot line at (866) FWC-GATOR for help with a nuisance gator.
Outside of hunting season, only state-licensed nuisance alligator trappers are allowed to capture and kill alligators.
There are several theories to explain the rise in attacks:
May and June are mating months for alligators.
The lack of rainfall and higher temperatures have dried up some of the wetlands and forced alligators to go looking for new homes.
New developments have encroached on their natural habitat.
5/29/06 - The eyes have it when it comes to counting Florida's alligators
By Brian Skoloff
The Associated Press
ON LAKE OKEECHOBEE, Fla. -- To the unaided eye, the swamp seems to sleep at night. But hit it with a spotlight and alligators suddenly appear everywhere, their bulbous red eyes glowing on the water's black surface.
The biologists begin to count. In three hours, from just a pair of airboats, they find 754 gators in one small section of Lake Okeechobee, one of Florida's most concentrated gator habitats.
The data becomes part of the state's annual alligator count, used to set the number of hunting permits issued in coming years. More hunters are expected this season after three separate fatal attacks earlier this month.
Even with rampant development and loss of wetlands, officials estimate there are more than one million alligators in Florida -- a miraculous comeback for a species that was approaching extinction 40 years ago.
State officials and environmentalists attribute the population growth to strict federal regulations on sales of alligator products like skin and meat, along with tight limits on hunting and trapping.
On this balmy May evening, as the setting sun tinted the wispy clouds a fiery orange-red, biologist Lindsey Hord dipped what looked like a meat thermometer into the water.
Eighty-four degrees. Perfect. The warmer the water, the more the gators surface.
Hord, who works for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, used a GPS system to track his location as he zipped around the lake in near blackness, aiming his spotlight and counting eyes. Alligators are easier to find in the dark when a single spotlight can illuminate dozens, even some hidden in sawgrass.
Each year, scientists set out into some 50 locations statewide for the monthlong population assessment, recording alligator size and estimating age.
If they can't get close enough before a gator sinks beneath the surface, the biologists use estimates, sometimes using the distance between its eyes to determine size or noting the pace with which it fled. The younger the gator, the slower it retreats because older gators learn to associate light with people, Hord said.
"That's just a survival instinct," he said.
Though its brain is only the size of a man's thumb, the American alligator has proven highly adaptable since it emerged about 4 million years ago from a line of reptiles that have survived on Earth for 200 million years.
Now found from southeastern Oklahoma and eastern Texas across to North Carolina and Florida, the species can grow to 14 feet long and weigh up to 1,000 pounds during a life span of more than 30 years.
In 1967, after years of overhunting and habitat loss, the American alligator was listed as an endangered species, but conservation efforts and hunting regulations led the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to pronounce it fully recovered 20 years later. Florida lists it as a species of special concern, giving the state authority over management and control programs.
Now, even with hunting, numbers are increasing in some areas and remaining stable in others, state alligator researcher Allan Woodward said.
"Our (hunters) are targeting the real big alligators, 9 feet or larger, so we're actually reducing the population of those, and the smaller ones seem to be doing a lot better," Woodward said.
Environmentalists agree the alligator is thriving.
"With the right biological input, you can harvest a number of alligators on an annual basis, as long as you don't reopen a Wild West atmosphere in terms of the trade of alligator products," said Charles Lee of Audubon of Florida.
Some 30 farms have permits to raise alligators and take eggs and hatchlings from the wild. Up to half of the eggs can be taken without affecting the population, Hord said.
"Survival of young alligators is density-dependent. The higher the number of alligators, the lower the survival rate of young," he said.
Based on previous counts, the state wildlife commission added six weeks to this year's hunting season, which will run Aug. 15 to Nov. 1.
Spokesman Tony Young said he expects sales of hunting permits, allowing for two kills each, to top last year's record of 2,770 because of media reports on the three recent fatal attacks, just as demand for shark fishing permits soared after the movie "Jaws" came out in 1975.
Limited gator hunting also is allowed in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas.
5/18/06 - Gunshot just angers alligator
NEW PORT RICHEY (AP) — Another day, another alligator encounter in Florida.
A Pasco County sheriff's deputy fired a rifle shot at a 9-foot alligator that wandered into a yard in a suburban neighborhood Monday, trapping a 75-year-old woman in her home. The .223-caliber round pierced the reptile's head, but didn't slow it down.
‘‘It didn't hurt him,'' said Mickey Fagan, a professional gator trapper who arrived a few minutes later. ‘‘It just made him mad.''
Fagan caught the gator on a metal hook, taped its mouth shut and wrestled it into his trailer. It was just another day for the trapper, who says he's killed more than 60 alligators since March 18.
Fagan was back on the job Tuesday in another Pasco neighborhood, trapping an 11-footer that had ventured near some homes.
Calls to the state's nuisance alligator hot line have spiked in recent days, following three fatal attacks in a week. Wildlife officials say gator encounters are becoming more common as the state's population grows and drought sends the reptiles in search of wetter places.
On Sunday near Bradenton, a woman grabbed a handgun and fired four shots at a 3-foot alligator that attacked her golden retriever. The gator wasn't seriously hurt, but the woman got a warning citation for hunting without a license.
5/16/06 - After Fatal Alligator Attacks, High Alert and Lowered Eyes
By Terry Aguayo
New York Times
Frank Mazzotti, a wildlife ecologist at the University of Florida, has some advice for people who never want to come face to face with an alligator: Stay out of Florida.
Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press Todd Hardwick, a trapper, taped the mouth and eyes of an alligator he captured Monday in a lake behind homes in North Miami Beach, Fla. While alligator attacks are not everyday occurrences in the state — only 17 fatal attacks have been reported since 1948 — three women have been killed by alligators in the past week, prompting concern among residents, visitors and state wildlife officials.
"We live in a wildlife state in and among many different species," said Willie Puz, a spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. "Be alert to your surroundings. Any freshwater body in Florida can be home to alligators."
Mr. Puz attributed the recent attacks to factors like warm waters and recent droughtlike conditions in the area.
"The weather is heating up, and the water is heating up," he said. "Alligators need heat to regulate their body temperature, and when it heats up, they become more active."
The lack of rain, Mr. Puz said, means that the "lakes and streams and canals are lower than they should be, which concentrates the alligators' food sources and possibly the alligators."
Mr. Mazzotti agreed with Mr. Puz and said he was worried about people's reactions to the alligators.
"People either want them killed or want to get close to them," Mr. Mazzotti said. "They don't exhibit the in-between behavior, which is respect them, don't get close. It's just good common sense to exercise extra caution."
When the hotter weather makes alligators more active, their metabolism speeds up and they get hungrier more quickly, he said.
That is probably less than comforting to the growing number of people living close to alligator habitats in Florida these days, with the construction of many housing developments on what used to be wetlands.
Mr. Puz called the recent attacks "unfortunate and tragic, unrelated coincidences in three different geographical regions of the state."
5/15/06 - Gator fatally attacks woman near Lake George
The Associated Press
SALT SPRINGS -- An alligator fatally attacked a 23-year-old woman Sunday near Lake George, authorities said.
The woman had been staying at a secluded cabin near a springhead that feeds into the lake, said Marion County Fire-Rescue Capt. Joe Amigliore.
"The people she was staying with came around and found her inside the gator's mouth," Amigliore said. "They jumped into the water and somehow pulled her out of the gator's mouth."
The woman, whose name was not released, was pronounced dead at the scene. Her stepfather, who had tried to help her, was treated on the scene for a hand injury, said Amigliore.
The attack occurred near lakeside recreation seven miles south of Salt Springs, Amigliore said.
Authorities were searching for the alligator Sunday night. A message left on a Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission spokeswoman's cell phone was not immediately returned.
Salt Springs is about 40 miles southeast of Gainesville.
In another attack, wildlife officers in Sunrise captured an alligator Saturday that they believe was responsible for killing a woman while she was out jogging last Wednesday.
The 9-foot, 6-inch alligator was trapped just under the bridge where Yovy Suarez Jimenez, 28, was last seen, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Spokeswoman Dani Moschella said.
Sunrise is northwest of Fort Lauderdale
5/13/06 - Trap set for injured gator living in pond
By Jenny Lee Allen
EAST MANATEE -- Red feathers poke out above the water as a 6-foot gator swims across a pond in Julius Dengler's back yard.
For the past few days, Dengler has kept an eye on the gator, which has an arrow sticking out of its belly.
The injured gator mysteriously appeared in the pond in the Mill Creek subdivision this week. "The poor thing," says Dengler, 63. "It's really sad."
On Friday, licensed trappers set out to catch the gator with a hook, nylon rope and a stinky piece of beef lung.
Once caught, the gator will be "harvested," meaning it will be killed and processed for its meat and hide. Wildlife officer Jeff Babauta said the gator probably will die from arrow injury if not caught.
Babauta said the arrow will be collected as evidence, and an investigation likely will be opened into who shot the gator.
A neighbor in Mill Creek, off State Road 64 east of Interstate 75, reportedly saw some children in the area shooting arrows, Babauta said.
It is illegal to possess, molest, harass or feed an alligator. Violators can face up to a $1,000 fine and jail time, the officer said.
Authorities say alligators, already on the move right now because of mating season, are wandering more than normal because of the drought.
Earlier this week, a 74-year-old Punta Gorda woman used a garden hose to fight off an alligator that attacked her in her back yard.
Dengler and his son first spotted the gator Sunday and called authorities. On Thursday, Dengler and his son tried to throw a noose around it.
"I was gonna haul him out and tie him to a tree," said Dengler, a reserve deputy for the Manatee County Sheriff's Office. "He moved too fast."
So Babauta came out Friday, hoping to snag it with a salt-water fishing rod, 200-pound test line and a large treble hook.
With no gator in sight, he moved to plan B.
Licensed nuisance trapper Charlie Tanner of Palmetto and his son Ben were called in to set a trap. The duo, in flip-flops and shorts, dug a few poles into the shoreline and hung beef lung from a hook about a foot above the water.
Since April 1, Charlie Tanner has caught 38 alligators in Manatee County. He isn't paid in dollars; rather, he gets to keep every other gator he catches. He turns the hides into wallets, briefcases and belts.
For now, it's a waiting game at Dengler's retention pond. It could be a few hours, or a few days, before the gator takes the bait. When it does, the Tanners will return.
Officials say this isn't the first time an alligator has been shot with an arrow.
The Statewide Nuisance Alligator Program has received reports of alligators shot with arrows in the past, said Linda Collins, a call center supervisor. She said some gators turn out to be just fine.
"They are very resilient animals," she said.
5/12/06 - Trappers Searching for Gator Suspected in Fla. Woman's Death
SUNRISE, Fla. — Trappers using pig lungs as bait scoured canals and other areas Friday as they tried to find an alligator believed to have killed a woman. Yovy Suarez Jimenez's dismembered body was found in a canal Wednesday by construction workers. The 28-year-old Davie resident had left for a jog Tuesday night and did not return.
Dr. Joshua Perper, Broward County's medical examiner, concluded Thursday that "the alligator attacked the woman while she was on land" and then dragged her body into a canal. He added that she "died of traumatic injuries sustained by an alligator attack, a mixture of blood loss and shock, and in my opinion died very fast."
Suarez's mother told WFOR-TV she last spoke to her daughter by phone Tuesday night when she was sitting under a bridge by a canal. Witnesses saw a woman matching Suarez's description dangling her feet over the water's edge, but no one saw an attack, said Officer Jorge Pino, a spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Authorities killed an alligator caught Thursday night but determined it did not kill Jimenez. Its stomach contained only tennis balls and a football, said Dani Moschella, a commission spokeswoman.
There have been 25 fatal alligator attacks in Florida since 1948, according to the wildlife commission.
05/11/06 - 75-year-old Woman Fights Off Gator
Gators are on the move, trapper says.
If one remains calm during an alligator attack, anything can be used as a weapon, even a garden hose. Just ask Connie Gittles, 75, of Punta Gorda. Gittles said she was nipped in the leg by a 5-foot gator Tuesday. The gator then stared at her until she "whacked it" with the nozzle-end of her hose. Then it slithered away, she said. The attack came at a time of year when nuisance gator reports normally increase. Big gators normally move from ponds seeking "girlfriends," said John French, a licensed alligator trapper. Gittles was watering potted plants in her backyard at the time of the attack. She said she felt what she thought was a snake bite her leg.
"I felt something grab on to me and I shook my leg, and I shook it loose," she said. "When I looked down, I saw the alligator, and he was looking at me. "I realized I had a hose in my hand. I gave him one good whack on the nose."
Gittles, a resident of Blue Heron Pines mobile home park, then finished her watering before going inside to calmly tell her husband, Tony. She said she wasn't about to quit watering until the job was done because, with watering restrictions, she wouldn't be able to complete the job for days. "I told my husband, 'I have to go to the doctor because I just got bit by an alligator,'" Gittles said.
Her doctor cleaned the puncture wounds and treated her with antibiotics. The Charlotte County Health Department also gave her a tetanus shot, she said
Gittles reported the attack to her mobile home park's office, which notified the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. French, the state's gator trapper for Charlotte, Lee and Sarasota counties, played a tape of baby gators in distress to lure two alligators from hiding near Gittles' park. One, an 8-footer, was deemed too big to be the one that attacked Gittles, so it was not captured. Officers kept the public away from the ponds during the hunt, Gittles said. Finally, French emerged with a 5-footer in tow.
"He had a noose around its neck and its mouth taped," Gittles said. "They wanted me to go over and identify him, and I said, 'I can't identify him.'" Gators normally are on the move this time of year because it's mating season. Also, it's the driest time of the year. Gators move from pond to pond searching for both water and "a girlfriend," French said. "A lot will stay in a pond for a day or two," French said. "If there are no females, they'll move again."
On Wednesday evening, the commission dispatched French to four "emergency" gator calls within one hour. An emergency call is when a gator is reported walking in populated areas. The emergency calls were located in Estero, Englewood and two in Punta Gorda. French said it remains a mystery what triggered all four gators to move at the same time.
Tony Gittles, Connie's husband, expressed a range of emotions in describing what he thought of his wife's actions. "It takes guts for her to strike back at a gator ... and I think that was foolish," he said.
Staff Writer, Englewood Sun-Herald