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Day 2: Alligator trapper has tough job

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George Hodge is reflected getting rope untangled in the eye of an alligator he just captured and pulled over the sea wall at Port of the Islands Resort & Marina in East Naples. Hodge, along with Collier County trapper Dave Regel were at the development to trap three alligators that were swimming up to children fishing off the sea wall. Greg Kahn/Staff

Photo by GREG KAHN

George Hodge is reflected getting rope untangled in the eye of an alligator he just captured and pulled over the sea wall at Port of the Islands Resort & Marina in East Naples. Hodge, along with Collier County trapper Dave Regel were at the development to trap three alligators that were swimming up to children fishing off the sea wall. Greg Kahn/Staff

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  • George Hodge is reflected getting rope untangled in the eye of an alligator he just captured and pulled over the sea wall at Port of the Islands Resort & Marina in East Naples. Hodge, along with Collier County trapper Dave Regel were at the development to trap three alligators that were swimming up to children fishing off the sea wall. Greg Kahn/Staff
  • George Hodge, left, and Dave Regel, right, hoist their first trapped alligator of the afternoon into a small covered space in the flatbed of his pickup truck at Port of the Islands Resort & Marina in East Naples. Greg Kahn/Staff
  • With a hook under its front leg and another in the right side of its neck, an alligator is tied off like a boat as George Hodge, left, and Collier County alligator trapper Dave Regel, center, catch the first of three nuisance alligators at Port of the Islands Resort & Marina in East Naples. Tying the gator to the dock allowed Regel to tape the reptile's mouth closed before they loaded the more than nine-foot-long alligator into Regel's pickup truck. Greg Kahn/Staff
  • As the pair of trappers arrive at Port of the Islands Resort & Marina off US 41 in East Naples, Dave Regel, right, watches the water around the docks for signs of alligators as George Hodge carries other equipment to the water's edge. Regel received a complaint from a resident that three alligators were swimming up to kids fishing on the dock every afternoon. Regel then receives a permit from Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission to catch three 'nuisance' alligators. Alligators that Regel determines to be a nuisance are ones that show no fear of humans and will swim right up to them. Greg Kahn/Staff
  • Dave Regel, Collier County's licensed alligator trapper, clears a path in the water at a Bonita Springs resident's home, so that a nuisance gator could easily get to the bait he had set. This particular gator had been hooked by Regel multiple times, but so far had eluded catpture. Regel would used rotting animal lungs hung on a treble hook to attract the alligator and once hooked, the resident would call Regel to remove it from the property. Greg Kahn/Staff
  • George Hodge rubs salt into the hide of a alligator he finished power washing as a way to preserve the skin. Selling alligator hides used to be a lucrative business for Dave Regel, Collier County's only licensed alligator trapper. But Regel hasn't be able to make a bulk sale of hides in more than two years, and he grows more worried he won't be able to make a living anymore from alligator trapping. Greg Kahn/Staff
  • After all three gators are killed, their spinal cords are severed, and Dave Regel stands on top of them with a hose, bleeding them out so they can be stored fresh in a walk in freezer. Greg Kahn/Staff
  • As Dave Regel, right, repositions a dead alligator, George Hodge, left, drags the next alligator out to be killed. Each nuisance alligator that Regel takes care of, he is paid $30 by Florida Fish and Wildlife. Regel then has the opportunity to sell the meat, hide and head, all of which are not selling for a livable wage, according to the trapper. Greg Kahn/Staff
  • Back at his home in Golden Gate Estates, Dave Regel, Collier County's sole alligator trapper, loads his antique rifle to kill the first of three alligators he caught that day. Regel said there are only a few ways to legally kill an alligator in Florida. With a shot, from a gun or bang stick, or by using a knife behind the head to sever the spinal cord. Greg Kahn/Staff
  • After loading the third alligator, all more than nine feet in length, Dave Regel, right, Collier County's only gator trapper, and his helper George Hodge, left, catch their breath as they lean on Regel's truck for support. Regel says the process of catching the alligators is hard work, and his bad back is proof of how heavy the reptiles are. Greg Kahn/Staff
  • Dave Regel waits patiently for an alligator to resurface late in the day at Port of the Islands Resort & Marina in East Naples. Regel says the patience is necessary because an alligator can hold its breath underwater anywhere between seven to eight hours. Regel said if he is going to catch the reptile, he will have to continue watching the ripples in the water for the alligator's head to emerge. Greg Kahn/Staff
  • George Hodge, who processes the alligators he and Dave Regel capture, stores the heads in a walk-in freezer behind Regel's house in Golden Gate. The heads are usually sold as trophies, but a lack in purchases has their freezer stockpiled. Greg Kahn/Staff
  • Dave Regel sits on the porch of his alligator processing facility. He is facing the possibility that he won't renew his trapper license with the state after struggling to sell the alligator hides and meat. Regel said he harvests on average 600 alligators per year, and is paid $30 for each until the state's budget runs out, which he said usually happens halfway through the year. Greg Kahn/Staff
  • Harley Hodge watches as her father, George uses a knife to begin removing an alligator hide and harvesting the meat. Greg Kahn/Staff
  • George Hodge cleans a dead alligator before removing the hide and harvesting the meat. Greg Kahn/Staff
  • Harley Hodge, left, watches as her father George drags an alligator into a room to be cleaned and skinned. Greg Kahn/Staff
  • George Hodge tickles his daughter Harley as they sit outside the alligator processing area at Dave Regel's house in Golden Gate Estates. With Hodge's wife in and out of the hospital with a hip injury suffered from a car crash, and mounting medical bills, Hodge hopes that he and Regel can soon find a buyer for a surplus of alligator hides they have been waiting to sell for more than two years. Greg Kahn/Staff

Dave Regel, Collier County's alligator trapper, tries to continue making a living while sales of hides declines.

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