By Kenneth L. Kieser
May 9, 2012
Imagine living in a water world filled with alligators. This would put a new slant on skinny dipping or even reaching your hand in the water to check a limb line. We have snakes that bite, but none will tear off a limb like a charming alligator.
My friend Stan Kirkland is the regional spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. He constantly deals with alligator reports, some of a very serious nature. Here are a few of his favorite alligator moments:
“A few years ago a central Florida homeowner near Winter Park made a 911 call during the middle of the night that there was an intruder,” Kirkland said. “He had emptied his .357 magnum handgun at the unwelcome guest. When officers arrived they found a severely wounded 9-foot gator on his living room floor.”
The guy’s home was built with a half-sunken living room to allow the ground to reach the window’s bottom edge. This gator crawled up to the house in the middle of the night, broke through the single pane window and fell onto the floor.
The homeowner heard the commotion, came out expecting to find burglars and opened fire, only to find that he had shot a big gator in the middle of his living room. Do you think he changed his windows the next morning?
Another incident took place on the outskirts of Orlando where a homeless couple became involved in a romp of passion; don’t expect me to be more descriptive, this is a family column. They chose a retention pond, where a large gator bit the guy’s during the couple’s thrashing about.
“If that’s not bad enough, I was tasked with doing part of the media interviews on this one,” Kirkland said. “Do you know how difficult it was to be serious and keep a straight face or not inject a little humor into this one?”
Kirkland recalls several years ago when a trapper was called to pick up a dead 9-foot fat gator on a busy highway near West Palm Beach. An 18-wheeler smashed the gator during the night. The gators’ lifeless body remained in the highway blocking traffic.
“Both a deputy and a Florida Highway Patrol trooper told our dispatch, and the trapper when he arrived on scene, that the gator was dead,” Kirkland said. “When the trapper grabbed the gator by its tail, the supposedly dead gator spun around and grabbed the trapper by his arm.”
The very much alive gator began rolling in the highway in front of dozens and dozens of shocked witnesses. The trapper was clinging to the gator with his functioning arm. His other arm was broken and inside the gators mouth. He was screaming, “Kill ‘im, kill ‘im.”
The trooper drew his sidearm and shot at the gator but missed, shooting the trapper through his right leg. The trooper had plenty of bullets left, regained his composure to finally shoot and kill the gator. The trapper recovered eventually, wondering if it was time to find a new line of work.
“My all-time favorite story is that of an 11-footer pulled from Blackwater State Forest near Milton, Fla., after consuming a championship coon hound wearing a radio tracking collar,” Kirkland said. “When dissected, the gator had not only the remains of the pedigree dog inside, but collars from at least six other dogs as evidenced by the collars’ eyelets, snaps, metal buckles, etc. The gator was estimated to be at least 50 years old and was removed from a spring roughly 300 yards from a major swimming area in the Forest. I did just over 150 media interviews about this one.”
So, next time you swim in a Midwestern lake or pond, be glad that gators are hundreds of miles away. Their bite is definitely worse than their bark!