TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Alligators are as much of a part of life in the Tampa Bay area as palm trees and white sand.
Usually, gators and people can get along, but sometimes, we see incidents such as the now-viral instance of an 11-foot gator “breaking in” to a home in Clearwater.
Karina Paner is a director of Croc Encounters in Tampa. She is also a nuisance alligator trapper, contracted through the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in Hillsborough County.
She was surprised to hear about the unwanted overnight visitor at the home on Eagles Landing.
“I definitely was kind of shocked to see that an alligator broke into a window inside somebody’s home. So that was kind of surprising, like a first that I’ve heard of an alligator breaking in,” Paner said.
“But also, you know, we do live in Florida so I was like, ‘okay that’s not unusual.’”
Paner said as a trapper, something like this is considered an “emergency situation.” Trappers would get a phone call to respond immediately.
She said a “normal day” in the world of alligator trapping is quite different.
“Normally for alligator trapping, when it’s not an emergency situation, we’ll get an email saying ‘we have this permit’ and specifics about the alligator and we’ll have to contact the person who called it and then go out and see what’s going on, check out the situation.”
Trappers will sometimes try to line up numerous permits in one day and as Paner says, hope they have good luck and find the alligators.
Trappers can go to many sites in one day, but that doesn’t mean they’re always successful.
“Sometimes it takes a while before we even see the alligator. They might have just seen it passing through, or it only comes out at a certain time of day… Maybe it goes through the pipes and goes to another pond and then comes back, so it’s kind of hit or miss,” Paner said.
At Croc Encounters, the nuisance gators Paner has trapped get a second chance at life.
That’s not the case for all gators, however.
“Most of the alligators are going to be euthanized because there are so many other trappers and they’re not really paid for their services, so they have to recoup somehow. They take them to a processor usually for some compensation, you know, meat and skin,” Paner told News Channel 8.
She had some advice for folks who may be nervous about alligator encounters after seeing images from Clearwater.
“I think it’s really important for people to know that they can definitely live amongst alligators. And you don’t have to call in every alligator you see. Every alligator isn’t going to be a true nuisance,” she said.
“Definitely when people start feeding them, that’s a whole different situation. That’s definitely something they don’t want to do. You don’t want to feed the alligators because that gets them used to people, they lose their fear, and now they’re approaching people.”
To report a nuisance alligator to FWC, call 866-FWC-GATOR.