TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Tampa Police Department officers stopped a scaly suspect who was meandering through a neighborhood intersection on Wednesday.
Officers encountered a 9-foot alligator out for a stroll shortly after 1 a.m. While waiting for a trapper to arrive, two of them held down the large reptile as a third wrapped duct tape around its mouth.
Phil Walters, an alligator trapper contracted with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Nuisance Alligator Program, was called to the intersection to assist. He said that if the alligator was left in the road, especially at night, it could end up damaging vehicles, or worse.
“Being aware of your surroundings will keep you out of trouble, because that alligator, if you had hit him in a small car, you’d be totaled,” Walters explained. “If you were on a motorcycle, your body would probably be laying out in the street.”
Walters said he has been called to trap an increasing number of alligators, as mating season gets underway. It could start a bit early this year, according to animal experts at Gatorworld Orlando, because of the unusually warm temperatures.
“This is the time of year you find them underneath cars. They show up at your front door. They’re moving around,” Walters said. “Winter’s over; spring is here.”
The trapper said he was surprised to find the officers had subdued the gator because “normally, TPD doesn’t get down and dirty.” Walters explained that while the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office has an agricultural unit that typically handles rogue animals, TPD does not.
“I’ve seen the deputies deal with them. Tampa police, not so much, so I was really surprised and happy when I just showed up and saw they were putting me out of a job,” Walters said. “And they did a great job. So I guess there’s some good ol’ boys on the TPD, they had that thing taken care of for me.”
Walters said the alligator measured up at nine feet, four inches long, and is likely a male. It took four men to lift the bound, behemoth gator into the back of a truck.
As for what comes next for the alligator, the FWC leaves that decision up to the trapper. Relocating alligators can come at a cost to trappers, according to an Associated Press report, and many opt to sell the animal for its skin and meat. Or, as Walters put it, “luggage and hors d’oeuvres.”