Trapper seeking large gator or croc lurking near Capri homes

Ann Hall

A professional trapper has been called in to help relocate a large, corrupted alligator or crocodile putting a scare into homeowners on the Isles of Capri.

A phone call made by the informal Coconuttele on Capri to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission set up a permit to dispatch trapper Ray Simonsen to assess the situation.

Three trips following calls to him upon sighting the croc or gator have thus far resulted in no capture, but Simonsen has seen an alligator behind the dock of the Cowden residence and in other close-by waters of Capri.

He estimated it to be about 10 1/2-feet long, and said it poses a risk to the community by virtue of its “corrupted” behavior and size. In addition, after talking with the neighbors, the trapper believes a croc may be in the area as well, based on the descriptions given. Witnesses have been given the trapper’s direct cell number and instructed to call at any time “day or night.”

“Our job is public safety and to protect the species,” said Simonsen. “The magic number is four feet, for determining whether or not to relocate an animal.

Trapper Ray Simonsen demonstrates how an alligator is trapped for transport after becoming “corrupted” and considered dangerous to a neighborhood.

“Once an animal has become ‘corrupted’ it cannot be relocated locally as it will endanger another community, and will also find its way back to the original location from which it was removed,” he said.

Last week, posts to the Coconuttele, the island’s informal email communication system, came pouring in about sightings of large reptiles in the bays and canals around Capri. Most were confused as to whether or not what they were seeing was an alligator or a crocodile. Alligators have a rounded mouth and are dark like an old truck tire. Crocodiles have a pointed mouth, more bumps on their skin, and some of their teeth are visible even when their mouths are closed. They also tend to be lighter, almost tan in color. Crocs are classified as “threatened” by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, but have made a tremendous come-back since placed on the “endangered” species list in 1975.

• “The croc we saw a week or so earlier is back,” wrote Barbara Cowden. “On Tuesday morning, it was thrashing around under our dock, and then moved next door. When our yard man began spraying in the yard, my husband John saw it start swimming toward our deck. It seems to come towards us from across the bay whenever it sees us walking in our back yard, especially when our two dogs are out running in the yard. We do have a fence along the seawall to keep our dogs from falling in the bay.”

• “Gator or crock is still around,” wrote Clay Jones. “Just a heads up for those in the Tarpon Village area of Capri as I saw it this morning and it’s big enough to be a concern, especially if people have pets.”

• “We had an alligator swimming around and near our neighbor’s boat across from us this morning,” wrote Emmelina Semmler, who also sent several photos.

Rainy period

It is not unusual to observe a gator or even a croc once in a while after a long period of heavy rain, but this is out of the ordinary for the peaceful waters surrounding Capri, and many who have lived here for years, say they have never seen one.

Recent reports from observers have one thing in common. They say that when they walk out in their back yards, the gator or croc appears and seems to swim aggressively toward their dock, sending a warning that the animal is in search of food. It appears to think that humans may have a hand-out. The sad truth is that when people feed alligators or crocodiles, whether young or old, they are teaching them that humans become their food suppliers. This changes the animal’s behavior and causes it to come closer to humans than normal. It “corrupts” the animal’s natural behaviors for self-feeding in the wild, and is against the law.

When “corrupted” or aggressive behavior is observed, the safe thing to do is to call FWC for advice. According to information available on the Everglades National Park website, alligators are usually not aggressive and fearless of humans, unless they are being fed by humans.

Trapper Simonsen is in hopes of helping the community become educated about sharing the habitat with the native animals, but also what to do when aggressive behavior is observed in any wild life. Capri Community Inc. has invited Simonsen to be a guest speaker for its opening meeting of the season in November.

Simonsen has two licenses which allow him to trap and transport.

“I transport all of my animals alive to a farm up in LaBelle if the animal cannot be relocated safely,” he said. Although the animal or animals being seen around Capri have not yet been trapped, the case remains open for 45 days, and an extension may be requested if sightings continue beyond that period.

If you need to report unusual alligator or crocodile behavior in your area, call the GATOR HOTLINE at (866) 392-4286.

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