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Hesitant trapper nabs gator

By Times staff writer

© St. Petersburg Times,
published July 28, 2001

ST. PETERSBURG -- The alligator trapper didn't think the gator sunning itself in the drainage ditch looked like it posed a threat to humans. But he caught it anyway because a neighbor had complained that it had snapped at children.

The 7-foot alligator was captured Thursday evening in a watery ditch in the 200 block of 17th Street N, on the eastern edge of St. Petersburg's Historic Kenwood neighborhood.

State-contracted alligator trapper Joe Borelli tried unsuccessfully to snare a second gator, a 5-footer that also had been seen in the ditch, state wildlife officials said. Borelli was planning to return to the same place and try again.

Still, the trapper wondered whether neighbors were overreacting to the presence of the alligators.

"These alligators didn't appear to be a threat to anyone," said Gary Morse, spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. "But we err on the side of conservatism. . . . We have to go on what people report."

In this case, the alligators were worrying parents of small children on that stretch of 17th Street N. Complaints about alligators have increased recently in the wake of several highly publicized gator attacks around Florida.

"There appears to be a little bit of a public panic with regard to alligators," Morse said. "Alligators lie still. That's a defense mechanism. If you approach them, they'll hiss and back up. Then people think, "Oh, God, the alligator almost got me.' "

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