Some airboat tour operators at Everglades Holiday Park have been charged with alligator harassment for feeding gators during tours, according to this article (also has video showing an alligator being fed). Apparently, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission went undercover as tourists to catch the men in the act — however, there’s nothing in the FWC news releases about this, and I haven’t found a Florida paper reporting this. (The article referenced above is from a Tennessee news outlet.)
I remember in 2004, three airboat tour operators in Collier County (southwestern Florida) were charged with the same thing after another FWC undercover investigation. At that time, the maximum penalty was 60 days in jail and a $500 fine, but I don’t know what the punishment actually ended up being. In any case, the damage was done and the alligators had to be trapped and removed because they had lost their fear of people.
I really hope to read this in a regional news source. Updated to add: Someone told me they saw this on a local TV station, so I searched one local station Web site and found a link to the same story here.
Photo from U.S. Geological Survey
Two young men will be sentenced next month for killing and eating an alligator, this article reports. According to the news, they allegedly shot the six-foot alligator’s eyes out, beat it to death with a baseball bat and then ate it. Both men pleaded guilty.
The article briefly says the crime took place at Blue Hole on Big Pine Key. What it doesn’t say is that’s in Key Deer National Wildlife Refuge. Some national wildlife refuges allow hunting, but this one doesn’t. Even so, alligator hunting is allowed only with permits and under certain conditions.
The article also mentions some people wrote letters to the judge in the case, asking for a harsh sentence for the men because the alligator was “semi-tame.” You know what that means: people fed that alligator. If you have visited Blue Hole, you can’t help but see a sign that tells you feeding alligators is a very bad idea. Alligators who are fed by people get too used to people, and when alligators lose their fear, people can become targets. Alligators that pose a risk to people’s safety are then usually killed.
So while these two men may have killed the alligator, anyone who feeds an alligator is ultimately leading it to death.
Photo from U.S. Geological Survey
A reader writes:
“Please help! My husband sits every day at a the bank of a canal to eat lunch. He has many times stopped his co-workers from feeding or harassing the alligators that also appreciate the same canal. Recently he was eating lunch when a police officer approached him stating that there had been a complaint of a man harassing the alligators. They charged him! A Florida native and longtime advocate and defender of Florida wildlife, my husband has now been charged with harassment of an American alligator. Basically what I need to know to approach this correctly is the law that constitutes this charge. What is the exact law against harassing American alligators, and the possible repercussions? Thank you for your time. Kind Regards, Jessica”
Huh, that’s really something. I was under the impression — based on past news reports of alligator harassment charges — you had to be caught in the act.
I can’t offer legal advice, but you can contact your local division of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which can tell you exactly what the law says. Your local FWC office is a good place to begin for lots of wildlife-related help.
And you should definitely contact a lawyer.
I hope your husband will continue to help spread the word against harassing alligators and other wildlife. Best wishes….