Spike the alligator helps teach Capri residents a lesson
Since Oct. 22, trapper Ray Simonsen, a Florida Fish and Wildlife nuisance alligator trapper, has been working with residents on the Isles of Capri under a permit that gives him permission to remove a 10 ½-foot nuisance alligator.
The gator is reported to be showing aggression and threatening residents who step out on their docks along the east side of the Isles. Residents are not allowed to remove an alligator themselves, nor would they want to do so, as they are a “protected species.” Crocodiles are an “endangered species.”
Trapper Ray, as he likes to be called, almost had his prey when a neighbor unknowingly spooked it before he could get it under control. The neighbor began snapping photos of the gator and asking the trapper what he was doing.
“This is the first lesson in what not to do,” Simonsen said to an audience of about 50 residents at the first general meeting of Capri Community Inc. for the season.
To help educate residents in, Simonsen brought with him a live 4-foot, 3-inch nuisance alligator named Spike. With electrician’s tape carefully placed on Spike’s mouth to keep it from opening, and a strong leash around his neck, anyone who wanted to meet him up close and personal was invited to do so. There was only one taker among the group – and she is new to Capri.
Joanna Price, resident of only three weeks, cradled Spike in her arms and had this to say: “He is heavier than he looks, but his belly is the softest thing I have ever felt!”
Simonsen ended with a story telling of an alligator shot and killed last year by a group of amateur Mississippi hunters. The gator weighed 910 pounds and bore injuries confirmed to have been caused by musket ammunitions from the Civil War era by Enfield Pattern 1853 rifle-muskets. It is believed that because the injuries were concentrated around the tail and hind legs, that the gator could have possibly been used as a target for shooting practice by Confederate soldiers.
The moral to all of the lessons shared by Trapper Ray and his helper, Spike, is that people cause wildlife such as alligators to become corrupted by feeding them.
“If we are more diligent with what we are doing, we won’t have a problem,” the trapper said. Remember, they are an important part of Florida’s natural history as well as an integral component of aquatic ecosystems.
If you see a nuisance gator, call 866-FWC-GATOR (392-4286).
Contact Ann Hall at firstname.lastname@example.org
Do not feed
Not to be fooled by how cute this young gator looked, nor how safe he appeared under the restraints, trapper Ray Simonsen proceeded to share the following important points in a most humorous and story-telling way:
• “People cause wildlife to become a nuisance when they feed them. Even if you feed the birds, you are attracting nuisance animals to the food as well. Feeding any wildlife is against the law. Alligators are not out to get you, but they are opportunists. Typical behavior is for an alligator to run from you, but if someone has been feeding them, directly or indirectly, they look to people for a hand-out; they like to take the easy way out.
• “Gators prefer more fresh-water habitat, but sometimes get misplaced as a result of construction or heavy rains that dilute the saltwater areas. Technically, a 4-footer can kill a human, and alligators are loaded with bacteria — a scratch from an alligator’s claw can be fatal.
• “My job is to protect both people and the species in order to protect the environment. Your job is to follow the laws by not feeding any wildlife. It is a felony subject to a fine and depending on the number of offenses, jail time for harassing, feeding, or throwing anything at an alligator. In addition, if you come in contact with a trapper trying to get a nuisance animal under control, do not approach taking photos and asking questions. This poses a danger to the trapper and prevents him from doing his job – he needs concentration.
• “Give the trapper time, leeway, and once the animal is safely contained you can get photos and ask questions. If you come in contact with an alligator, keep 25 to 30 feet back as that is their striking zone, and they have a knee-jerk reflex.”