Swimming with gators holds no allure for locals

Swimming with gators holds no allure for locals

While many people feel that it’s great to be a Florida Gator, they are usually referring to their affection for the football team. The idea of swimming with a gator nearby is actually not so great.

Gator hunter Billy Parry poses with the 8-foot gator it took him nearly two weeks to catch from Lake Marco. The gator had to be relocated after it showed signs of no longer fearing humans.

Gator hunter Billy Parry poses with the 8-foot gator it took him nearly two weeks to catch from Lake Marco. The gator had to be relocated after it showed signs of no longer fearing humans.

That is why San Marco resident Talmadge Hunt was so alarmed to see an eight-foot alligator swimming next to his dock a few weeks ago. “It came up between my dock and my neighbor’s dock. My kids swim there a lot,” Hunt said. “I talked to another neighbor who lives on Lake Marco and he said it had been there a number of years.”

Paul Fazio who lives next door to Hunt said after eight years of living on the river, he was surprised to come out one Saturday afternoon and see an alligator by his dock. “Usually you can just see the head, but the water was choppy that day and I could see parts of the whole thing,” Fazio explained. “Moments before, my kids had been swimming in the river.”

Fazio’s 14-year-old daughter, Annie, had long suspected there was a neighborhood gator. “My friend and I went out on the dock last year and we saw an alligator coming out of the water.  We screamed and ran inside. When we went back out it was gone, and no one believed us,” Annie said with a grin of vindication.

With the gator’s official sighting, Hunt called the State Nuisance Alligator Program, and St. Nicholas resident Billy Parry was assigned to
the case.

It took Parry about two weeks to capture the eight-foot gator out of Lake Marco. “We would drive by and see him and he would take off in the storm drain,” Parry said. “That’s their highway. They can travel a mile or two in there. Whenever you see a storm drain there could be an alligator.”

Parry who has been a trapper for three years, said his busiest time catching alligators is in the spring, during their mating season. He uses a fishing rod with a treble hook and weight to snag them and a snare to pull them up. If they are less than four feet long, the gators are released in a less populated area. Gators larger than that are harvested for their meat and hide.
Parry said that alligators are naturally fearful of humans. He said they become dangerous when people feed them, and they lose their shyness. “A normal alligator is scared of people,” Parry explained. “Once a gator feels comfortable around people, you’ve got to get rid of him.”

Both Hunt and Fazio feel safe with their kids swimming again now that the gator has been caught. “Right, wrong or indifferent, if my children want to swim in the river, I’ll let them swim,” Fazio said.

Hunt agrees. “We always felt safe on the river, and now we do again.”
While Hunt feels great to be rid of the gator, it turns out he doesn’t have any affection for the football team. “My wife and I both went to Alabama,” Hunt exclaimed. “I can’t stand the Gators!”

By Lara Patangan
Resident Community News

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