Licensed gator trappers help people who feel threatened

Posted at 4:50 AM, May 08, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-08 07:20:49-04

Sun, water, and alligators are all typical sights for many Florida homeowners, like Steve Miller.

"There's not a gator in my backyard, I am living in his front yard. At night, this is where they are at... right here at the very shallow end. Most of them are nice to stay on the other side of the pool," said Miller.

Miller said he will call a trapper when they come across the pond because that is when he feels threatened.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, a gator can be considered a nuisance when it is at least four feet long and poses a threat to people, pets or property. The FWC has a Statewide Nuisance Alligator Program (SNAP) which addresses complaints regarding alligators.Tim Geist is a licensed nuisance alligator trapper. He took ABC Action News on a trap near Ruskin, where a family reported what they believed was a four to a five-foot long alligator in a backyard pond. 

Geist said the drought crossing over into mating season means more alligators than usual are on the move.

"We've got alligators moving around looking for mates and we've got alligators looking for water," said Geist. He explained that there are normal calls, which trappers have a 45-day time-frame to try and trap the alligator and emergency calls (like the alligator on the Veterans Expressway) when they go immediately.

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"I see him right now, we are going to try to get him, okay?" said Geist to the homeowner who reporter the alligator. After a relatively quick scan of the pond, Geist spotted the alligator. Within 15 minutes, Geist had the alligator trapped, but this alligator was much smaller than it appeared. This gator was less than four feet long, so technically it does not qualify as a nuisance alligator.

"See cute little guy, see he will be relocated. So I'll go find him a nice safe, space away from the bigger gators," said Geist.

In Miller's case, licensed trappers have come to his house twice, but is still out in the wilderness for now.

"The gator came and looked several times, but never took the bait," said Miller.

The FWC and Geist stressed the importance of not feeding alligators because that could end up costing them their life. If alligators get used to getting food from humans, they are likely to come around more often.

Check out this map of some of the locations licensed trappers removed nuisance gators in the Bay Area in 2016. 

The FWC provided ABC Action News with a full list of locations that licensed nuisance alligator trappers removed alligators in 2016. Below is a breakdown of how many were removed in Bay Area counties.

Polk: 373

Highlands: 135

Manatee: 202

Hillsborough: 292

Hernando: 31

Pinellas: 197

Citrus: 63

Pasco: 392

Sarasota: 411