An enormous alligator, 10’ 10” and weighing 320 pounds, parted company with the St. George Island Plantation last week.
Stan Kirkland, a spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said Don Davis, the alligator trapper who handles nuisance calls, got the call on Friday that the animal had been hanging out on the beach between Kumquat and Castle Del Mar for the past few days.
“He got out there and the gator was still there,” said Kirkland. “He was just lethargic; he wasn’t active.”
Kirkland said the gator was a healthy male, with “nothing distinguishing, nothing remarkable.”
Because there is no freshwater nearby, Kirkland speculated that the gator likely came from the St. Vincent Island refuge and probably swam across the pass.”
Others in the Plantation have speculated the animal came from Little St George Island or from East Bay.
Kirkland said Davis removed the alligator and then dispatched it out of the presence of onlookers.
The beauty of that nuisance program is that we don’t pay the trappers per se a salary. Their money comes from the sale of hides and meat,” said Kirkland.
“Generally what they do is they have to be careful how the approach the gator. Most of time they use a noose around the head and jaws. The first thing you have to do is immobilize, and take away their ability to open their jaws.
“They’ll tie them up and get that mouth taped off, and they will dispatch the animal but not in front of the public,” he said.
Because there is plenty of bacteria on the hide, it is carefully washed and then sold to a processing facility, in Port St. Joe. The meat is sold in five pound quantities, he said.
“We have hide buyers that come into Florida, and they (the hides) are graded for their value,” Kirkland said. “The better hides have no marks or blemishes’ they’re not beaten up from fights with other alligators, which devalue the hide.”
Kirkland said the alligator population in the state is 1.3 million animals, second only to Louisiana. Recreational season, which allows for 6,663 permits, runs from Aug. 15 through Nov. 1. Hunters who carry the necessary permits are allowed to take gators from 5 p.m. to 10 a.m.
But nuisance alligators are handled by those under contract with FWCX.
“Our policy is that anyone who feels that they have an alligator that’s a problem or a threat to them or their animals or livestock, they can call and notify us and we will remove that alligator,” Kirkland said, noting that the animal’s length must be four feet or larger.