Monday, March 11, 2013
Help Me Howard: Get the Gator
A South Florida family is worried for their safety and the safety of neighborhood kids. That's because of several gators, living in the canal by their home. But trappers won't come out, so they called Howard and Patrick Fraser for help.
WSVN -- Watching gators on TV snapping and hissing is fascinating. Watching them in your backyard? Not the same.
Jennifer Lara: "No, I will not buy a house near a canal again."
Years ago Jennifer and her husband bought their home in South Dade because it was on a canal.
Jennifer Lara: "It is my dream house."
Not now. Blame it on this guy who acts like he owns their backyard.
Jennifer Lara: "It's coming out of the water and it's every day in the same location. You know, I fear for it and I fear for the kids that live around here, the parents and everybody."
This fellow is about 8 feet long. Two other gators also call this canal home. Neighbors call it dangerous.
Ralph Nerette: "There was a little boy across the canal there fishing and he sat there, watched one alligator come out of the water on one side of him, and he turned on the other side. A second alligator came out of the water, and there was a third one floating in the water. That's when he took off."
Jennifer says she has watched as kids from a middle school walk past the gator on their way home.
Jennifer Lara: "They didn't notice the alligator until they got very near to it. Once they saw it they tried to throw rocks at it, get it to move out of the way, and it didn't come at them, but I mean, it could have been the other way around."
Ducks that live here don't live long.
Jennifer Lara: "A lot of dead ducks, and we didn't know why they were being torn apart. Now we know, because he's been coming out of the water and attacking these ducks."
The gators get the ducks that swim here. Ralph fears a kid will be next.
Ralph Nerette: "There are kids here who jump in the water and go swimming, so that's something waiting to happen, but nobody is paying attention to it."
Jennifer and Ralph have tried to get the gators removed. No luck.
Jennifer Lara: "I've called Creepy Critters. They told me I have to call the state. I've called Gator Boys. They told me they can't do anything about it, I also need to contact the state. I have also contacted the police, they told me they can't do anything about it, I need to call the state."
They have called the state, but the gator remains, leaving Jennifer worried.
Jennifer Lara: "I fear for my kids. I fear for myself. Every day when I step out of my door, I need to be looking around making sure it's not hiding in the bushes or hiding under my car, and you know it's not comfortable living like that every day, worried about your kids' safety and your own safety."
Well, Howard, they have a gator. They don't want a gator. Can they remove it from their own property?
Howard Finkelstein: "No you can't, because they are a protected species in Florida, but you can get rid of a gator if it's over 4 feet long by contacting the state. They license trappers who get permission to remove a gator, and then the animal becomes the trapper's property. Most of the time it's killed for the meat and hide to compensate the trapper for his time and trouble."
We then called the state, Florida's Fish and Wildlife Agency. They told us a permit had been issued which allowed the state-certified trapper to come get the gator. It took several weeks, but the trapper finally caught the 8-foot gator that keeps coming out of the water. The other two have apparently left the area. We were told it takes the trappers a while to respond because they have a lot of area to cover and they prioritize, going after the most dangerous gators first.
Ralph Nerette: "And one of the things I told them is, they need to have a system where there is more than one trapper. The trapper was very busy because he was exclusively covering one big area, and he is the only one allowed to do this."
The gator is gone. The neighbors are happy.
Jennifer Lara: "I think you guys did a lot, because if it wasn't for you guys we would have not gotten as far as we did."
Can you ever kill a gator on your own with no one's permission? Actually, yes. In fact, Howard had a case where a man was charged with killing a gator. Howard argued it was self-defense -- the gator was coming after his client and he had no choice, he had to shoot him. The jury agreed and found the man not guilty.
Now, if you aren't being chased by a gator and just want him removed, the number to contact is on our website at wsvn.com.
Swamped by a problem that's devouring you? Chomping to get it resolved? Permit us to snap to it and remove the problem -- quickly. With this Help Me Howard, I'm Patrick Fraser, 7News.
If you need to report a nuisance alligator, call toll-free 1-866-FWC-GATOR (1-866-392-4286) or go online to: http://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/managed/alligator/nuisance-alligator/