Photo credit: Uli1001
Florida wildlife officials are planning to unleash a new predator on its itinerant alligator population: suburban homeowners. For the past three decades, the state has relied on professional trappers to deal with complaints of wayward alligators stumbling onto suburban lawns. Under a draft plan released Friday, however, homeowners who discover a gator less than 4 feet long floating in their pool or blocking their driveway have the license to whack the beastie themselves.
"We're trying to make the program as flexible as possible," said Harry Dutton, alligator management program coordinator for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, in a story by the St. Peterburg Times. "If folks have the capability and are up for it, then fine."
In other words, people of Florida, just grab your 9 iron and let 'er rip.In the "Shoot First, Ask Questions Later" state, it's currently against the law to harm a gator, even if you feel threatened by it. Dutton says that the new approach will still require homeowners to report trespassing gators to the state's hotline, 866-FWC-GATOR. State officials would then issue a "harvest authorization" by phone, e-mail, or fax. No training or previous gator-wrangling experience required. (The 4-foot rule is in place to protect homeowners from larger gators that are better left to the experts.)
Once on the brink of extinction, efforts to save the species were so successful that an estimated 1 million gators currently roam Florida's remaining wild spaces. Last year, the state wildlife commission received around 21,000 complaints of gators showing up in backyard canals and stormwater-retention ponds—up from the 18,000 calls received in 2005.
Will open season soon be declared on gatorkind's horizontally challenged members? That all hinges on what goes down when the proposed plan is presented to the state wildlife commission in June.