See ya later alligator


photo by Alex Grace

Alex Grace, Staff Reporter

Known for their beady yellow eyes, long rigid tails and knife-like teeth, alligators can be found from the panhandle to the Everglades and even in Oviedo’s residential areas. Since their numbers have grown tremendously in recent years, interested trappers can get an alligator permit from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. That is what Richard Robertson did after getting hooked on trapping alligators when he successfully caught his first gator a few years ago.

Robertson is a superintendent for an underground infrastructure company, but has pursued his hobby of alligator trapping. Now the local alligator trapper, Robertson has helped people remove alligators that have become a nuisance in residential communities.

On September 22, Robertson received a call from a worried family. A troubled alligator had bitten a Winter Park dog. After trapping the alligator, it was a confirmed 11 feet 1 inch.

IMG_1439When catching an alligator, there are a few different ways to approach it. If the alligator is visible then the trapper takes an industrial fishing rod, snatches its hide, and continues to reel it into the bank. If not, bait is secured to a rope that is attached to the bank, and once the alligator swallows the bait that has a hook in it, the alligator is then pulled to shore. However that latter method is not to be attempted without a permit or experience.

People without permits who need to call in a nuisance alligator should to call the Florida Wildlife Conservation hotline where a series of questions regarding alligator experience will be prompted and it can be determined whether or not a trapper is needed at that area. If so, a trapper will come at no charge to the person who called in the alligator.

On some occasions, Robertson has a call about an E-gator “…is an emergency gator that is putting someone in danger right then and there. At that point in time we get out immediately whether it be in the middle of the night or the middle of the day,” Robertson said.

When he got a call once at 11 p.m., he knew it was urgent. Robertson was needed at an auto auction in Longwood where an alligator was found underneath a car. With the supervision of Animal Control, Robertson successfully caught the 4 and a half foot alligator. It is stories like these that Robertson can look back on.

Those who watch shows such as Gator Boys may think they capture the reality of gator catching. But Robertson cautions fans that trapping is not as entertaining as it looks and is a serious yet necessary job.

“Those reality shows are entertainment, so not all gators can be handled the way those guys are handling them on Gator Boys. If a gator is fed, it loses its fear of people,” Robertson said. “Then somebody goes to the edge of the water where the gator is at, that gator feels like it can come much closer and the person who feeds it can be in danger as well. A good way to think about that is a fed alligator is a dead alligator.”

Trapping alligators  requires professionalism, motivation, and a bit of a wild side, and Robertson, luckily enough for Oviedo, has all three.