PLANT CITY, Fla. - "It was a large alligator; almost 12 feet long, that had lost its fear of humans," said Officer Baryl Martin of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
It didn't take long for trappers to capture a 12-foot gator Sunday afternoon in the lake at Edward Medard Park in eastern Hillsborough county. Wildlife officials say it had recently grown too comfortable around people.
"Say a month ago, he would kind of keep his distance or if he seen somebody walking on the walkway, he would go under or go the opposite way," said fisherman Curtis Watley.
Watley fishes from the walkway over the lake several times a week. He says, in the last few weeks, things changed.
"He started to wait underneath for food and come directly to this spot out here," he said.
Watley also said he's never fed the gator or seen anyone else feed it. But the gator would just wait.
"For you to catch a fish and if was decent size, he would grab it off the line; and he took a bass from me and I saw him take a bass from another fisherman," Watley explained.
It's against the law to feed alligators in Florida.
"When people feed alligators, then you have beautiful animals that have to be removed due to the fact that they lost their fear of humans and they become a danger," Martin said.
Perhaps the intrigue that surrounds this animal that's survived for millions of years leads humans to want to interact.
Nature photographer Jason Zalva has seen his share of gators; and he believes people just don't understand the consequences of feeding and interacting with gators.
"I think people just like to be entertained. And they figure can entertain themselves by feeding an alligator and getting close; but they don't realize the ramifications of such an act," said Zalva.
"What you're doing, is you're endangering everyone else, including that animal, when you feed it," Martin said.
To report any type of wildlife violation, contact FWC at 1-888-404-FWCC(3922).