Wednesday, May 17, 2006
'Alligators like easy prey'
Quick! Gator sighting. Get over to this address. A trapper is about to catch one.

That was the word from CNN's assignment desk. The timing was right on. No sooner did we make our way to the back of a lakefront Florida home, than we heard veteran gator hunter Todd Hardwick yell, "Gator up!"

The gator had been sitting at the bottom of the lake for about an hour, evidently hoping that the guy who'd been circling the lake's perimeter would go away.

When the nine footer came up for air, Hardwick's hook landed him and he reeled in the 200-300 pounder. Hardwick sat on the gator's back and taped its snout, while I held a "catch pole."

With three women fatally attacked in the span of a week in Florida (only 20 such attacks have been recorded in nearly 60 years in Florida), Floridians have been calling trappers around the clock to capture gators.

The trappers have a priority list. The longest ones and those who are spotted on land go first. Then the smaller and more remote ones follow.

There's no charge to call a trapper. They're given permits and processors pay them by the foot for what they catch -- from as much as $55-60 per foot to as little as $15 per foot when they're plentiful.

When the gators are killed, nothing is wasted, Hardwick says. The meat, the hide, even the skull are sold.

In case you're wondering what to do if you ever come across a gator, Hardwick says you should ignore the common suggestion to run in a zig-zag pattern. He says it's just an old wives tale. You can try running straight away, but gators are very quick over short distances.

What you can do, if attacked, is "fight for your life," Hardwick says. Punch, kick, gouge out its eyes, and you might get it to back off. "Alligators like easy prey."
Posted By Susan Candiotti, CNN Correspondent: 12:14 PM ET
  31 Comments
I saw last night's story. Why would someone snorkel in a canal, especially when it's well-known that Florida is gator country? I feel sorry for the lady nonetheless. It's a horrible way to die. I also feel sorry for the gators. They are just God's creatures trying to survive among humans. Why doesn't the government try some birth control on these animals to slow the breeding? I hate to see them caught the way they are--it looks cruel. Humans must learn to co-exist with wildlife without killing them. We know better.
Posted By Anonymous Paige B., Austin, TX : 1:07 PM ET
I'm glad they're doing something to prevent more deaths of innocent people from the gators, but they shouldn't kill them! The gators should be taken to a secluded area like a zoo or somewhere where they can still live and be fed enough so they won't have to worry about being killed because they killed a human.
Posted By Anonymous Ashley LaPlante, East Berne, NY : 1:15 PM ET
Hi Susan,
I guess when we move into close quarters with wildlife, whether it be gators or mountain lions out here in California, we run the risk of colliding..I must say that after reading your post and seeing gators up close on AC360 last night, I am in no hurry to see one face to face. But you have to admire the trappers for their courage. I have a hard enough time reeling in a TROUT..Take Care
Posted By Anonymous Lorie Ann, Buellton,Calif. : 1:16 PM ET
Although we are experiencing a quick rise in attacks here in south Florida, people should not go into panic mode and kill off every gator they see. After all, it is the over-development of the aligator's native habitat that is forcing them to come into greater contact with humans. With so many new sud-divisions being build directly up against the Everglades National Park, what does everyone expect? Developers invaded the gator's natural home, now local residents are paying the price for such rampant over-development.
Posted By Anonymous Milena, Ft. Lauderdale, FL : 2:11 PM ET
People need to learn more about wild animals. Part of living in a place like florida is accepting the fact that some dangerous animals also live in the same habitat. There's no way to control their breeding, etc., as other posts have suggested. But people can go online and learn something about their feeding & mating habits, or otherwise become acquainted with them. Then the risk of a bad encounter is reduced. Rounding up a bunch of gators and killing them in a knee-jerk response to the recent fatalities isn't an answer.
Posted By Anonymous A. Roy, Washington DC : 2:29 PM ET
Susan,

I also saw the show last night and this really makes a person wonder if global warming has something to do with the alligators attacking like never before. If global warming has already affected the polar bears, why wouldn't it affect the food of the alligators?
Posted By Anonymous Nicki Ferguson, Calgary, Alberta : 2:36 PM ET
As a student at the University of Florida (home of the "Gators"), I can't help but wonder if this mascot would now be considered offensive in light of these latest tragic events. I'm really saddened by the lives lost due to these tenacious reptiles. Though I'll always love our great university, I can't help but wonder what those not affiliated with the school think of our named mascot.
Posted By Anonymous Evan T, Gainesville/Jacksonville, FL : 2:43 PM ET
I was just curious what secluded spot they should be taken to, because eventually someone will want to build something there too. It amazes me the people who build or buy a home and then complain about their "neighbors" in the wild.
Posted By Anonymous J. Perry, Pittsburgh, PA : 2:45 PM ET
Yea for the likes of the "Paiges" out there. Gators as well as all other God's creatures deserve a right to a good life. Only the "human" creatures wish ti conrtol and kill wildlife with no reguard. GOD'S CREATURES don't DESTROY the earth, we human and our over breeding, is. I'm a proud family of"native" Floridians.
Posted By Anonymous debra w. sanford, florida : 2:46 PM ET
*sigh* so once again some alligators are found guilty of acting like... why, alligators! What a surprise! And of course we have to kill them for acting the way they were made because some human decided to swim in their natural habitat. But of course! our wants are so much more important than an "unintelligent animal's". Sorry, but part of nature includes the food chain---unfortunately, some folks are destined to become part of it. Humans need to get over their arrogance as a supposed 'master race'. We're obviously far from it.
Posted By Anonymous Dave Sumers, Tinley Park, IL : 3:02 PM ET
i'm one of the victims friends. I'm saddened by the loss of the life of my friend and the other two ladies. they will be missed. I walked through the classrooms I shared with my friend and still see things she was going to pick up upon her return from florida.

people have asked me if i'm angry at the animal that had claimed her life. I shock them when I say, "no". the creature was only acting on what it knows. Living thing in it's territory is up to be prey. I understand that.

if people want to massacre alligators, they are insane.
Posted By Anonymous thomas c, murray, ky : 3:36 PM ET
Humm, wonder if alligator handbags will be back in style this fall?
Posted By Anonymous Cassie, Dallas, PA : 3:41 PM ET
I live near a place called 'Rattlesnake Mountain' and those of us who have lived here for awhile kind of keep an eye out when we run on the roads in that neighborhood. However, there are a bunch of big bucks houses that have been built there and the people who bought them are all up in arms because they keep finding (guess what?) rattlesnakes in their yards and basements. Guess who was there first? Guess who I feel sorry for (not the McMansion crowd). When we build in a creature's habitat, we have to expect them as our neighbors. Let the buyer do some homework and beware of those areas that might have critters they don't want to deal with...
Posted By Anonymous Robyn, Glastonbury, CT : 3:47 PM ET
Now all can see the result of government trying to manipulate the environment. By protecting gators from hunters (back in the 1930s - 50s) (Everglades National Park) the balance was upset. So now we have an example of one species over-populating its environment while other (unprotected) species (their natural prey) are not so available. Combine this with the gov't-forced changes in the natural terrain and waterways and we have a problem. The gators are just trying to sustain life as all healthy living creatures inately do.
Posted By Anonymous Danelle, Cape Coral, (SW) FL : 3:58 PM ET
That's terrible that lives were tragically lost, however, as stated before, that is the price we pay for being ignorant and overdeveloping in gator habitat.

As for the Florida Gators name, it's no big deal. Tigers have killed in India before, bears have killed in yellowstone before; if you start eliminating names of sports teams that have animal affiliations that have killed humans, you'll have names like the Women's NBA, or MLS. Good thing there are no man-eating ducks, otherwise Anaheim might fear for their hockey team's mascot....

It's human nature, live and let live. It's part of the earth that we live in.
Posted By Anonymous John, Buffalo, NY : 4:14 PM ET
Thank goodness nothing is "wasted" when the evil gators are slaughtered. It's very reassuring to know that the hides and skulls are sold after the fact. I'm sure there's quite a high need for them. Fantastic.
Posted By Anonymous Frankie, Floyd, VA : 4:43 PM ET
Alligators are territorial animals and as the population of Florida continues to grow, humans are increasingly encroaching on the alligators environment.

I feel sorry for those who lost their lives in this way, but if people want to live in the alligator's environment, they must educate themselves on the animal's behavior to better protect themselves from attack.

With a series of three attacks in such a short time, I hope people don't over-react and start killing every alligator they see.

People must keep things in perspective by remembering only 20 such attacks have been recorded in 60 years. How many fatal dog attacks have occurred in the same time frame? In 2005 alone, there were 28 reported dog bite related human fatalities in the United States.
Posted By Anonymous Joseph Kowalski, North Huntingdon, PA : 4:51 PM ET
Humans have thumbs and invented the house, therefore we can live wherever we want. If the gators are in the way, they're lunch. Survival of the fittest.
Posted By Anonymous Mike Youngstown, OH : 5:07 PM ET
Exactly what purpose does an alligator serve? God gave us, the one creation He made in His own image, animals to eat, or otherwise use as we see fit. Why on earth would we want to keep around an animal that is completely useless to us, and that hunts us? Wake up people....
Posted By Anonymous April Mpls, MN : 5:12 PM ET
I feel sorry for the people who have lost there lifes and the parents of the children who can't play in there yards or parks in theses infested areas of Florida. I think a hunting season with permitts is necessary, Archery is a sport for men and women , compound bows with heavy barbed fiberglass arrows and lead lines is a effective way to bag a alligator.
Posted By Anonymous Dave Winfield Quincy, Il : 5:28 PM ET
I do feel sorry for those that have lost their lives, but I can't help but to feel sorry for the gators. Is it their fault that they so happen to be higher up on the food chain than we are?! I think not! I also find it sad that these gators have been killed (even if every part was sold) shouldn't they have just been relocated to another remote area? These animals are magnificent and an entricate part of our ecosystem, and shouldn't be feared but understood.
Posted By Anonymous Rita, Plainview, TX : 5:51 PM ET
I've heard all the comments from the bleeding hearts that say poor defense-less alligators. Killing human beings is far from being defenseless. When something looks at us as part of it's diet? I've lived in Florida most of my life, gators are far from being on the endangered list. Last count was well over the million mark, besides there are so many that are raised commercially, yep, they say it tastes like chicken. It's one tough bird though. I feel that if something is a danger to my family, say goodbye. However, I've lived in Florida for almost 50years, seen a lot of gators, but I've never been ignorant enough to swim in the same pond.
Posted By Anonymous Paul-Florida Native, Stuart, FL : 5:57 PM ET
April, what an ignorant thing to say. Every creature has a purpose (although I am hard-pressed to find a purpose for cockroaches)! It's called the food chain, and gators are pretty much near the top. If there were no gators in South Florida, we'd be overrun by rats & various other rodents that are a large part of a gator's diet. And as for killing them, unfortunately that's something that sometimes must be done. Gators are creatures of habit, and they tend to return to the same place over and over again until they become a danger to people and pets. I spent most of my life in South Florida, and the further west we keep expanding into the Everglades, the more we encroach upon their habitat. Where else are they supposed to go?
Posted By Anonymous Christine, an ex-So. Floridian : 6:03 PM ET
April in MN-

How can you make such a statement. Every creature on this planet has a purpose and the alligator is definately one of them. They keep everything in balance and a world without these fascinating animals would be a sad one. Alligators hurt people, yes - but not because they are bloodthirsty, human hating killers. Because humans wander onto their territory, which belonged to the alligators FIRST. They don't "hunt us." They deserve respect, and people who choose to live amongst them should be prepared to take the proper precautions and learn about where they live, how they attack and why, and to leave them alone.

It outrages me when I read comments saying that alligators are "evil" or "useless." We need to remember that Florida is just as much a home to the alligators as it is to the people, and they have every right to be there too. They're wild animals, and they DO have feelings and that's why suggesting that we go out and mercilessly slaughter them all is terrible. They're excellent parents who look after their young, they care about the mates they choose. The alligator brain isn't like a human's, it's designed primarily for eating, and it just isn't capable of processing the idea of, "Hmm is this an innocent person gardening or an afternoon snack..." Most of it's brain is dedicated to smell and bite, and it's instinct is just to bite whatever is in front of it. You can't blame an alligator for being an alligator.
Posted By Anonymous Courtney, Chagrin Falls, OH : 6:04 PM ET
So the gators are starting to munch women at an increased rate. Perhaps they are just now figuring what those designer handbags are made of...
Posted By Anonymous Steve Buffalo NY : 10:21 PM ET
It's the conflict between nature and human beings. It will only get worse and there is no good solution to it. It's like the over-population of deers in the North East, causing so many costly traffic accidents. It's like the increasing number of squirrels getting squashed by motorists. May be there will be alligator hunting season just like there is deer termination season here in Short Hills, NJ.
Posted By Anonymous Willie, Short Hills, NJ : 11:07 PM ET
Let's just say April is clueless and leave it at that. And Dave there is a gator season in FL, but if you kill one out of season its a felony. Unless you are a trapper like the one in the story. And as far as killing them willy-nilly, that is stupid. Keep the people from going willy-nilly in there habitat, what a crazy idea, I know.
Posted By Anonymous Marie, Jacksonville, FL : 11:24 PM ET
Maybe the alligators are only doing what they do naturally. Try to find food. Maybe before trying to kill all of them off we had better keep the stupid people away from their habitat. I think killing them off by a bunch of air headed dimwitted trappers looking for a fast buck STINKS!!!!!
Posted By Anonymous Alligator Smith in knoxville, il : 10:35 AM ET
it is unfortunate people were killed by alligators, and its now unfortunate that alligators are being killed without rhyme or reason. maybe the "animal control" guys should just stick to killing the gators that have (probably) actually been guilty of killing humans, as they do in india with tigers, thus both getting rid of an animal with a taste for human AND not hunting the animals to endagerment, as with the wolves and grizzlies of the american west.
Posted By Anonymous tracy cincinnati ohio : 5:27 PM ET
As you read this you are probably in your "home" or "natural enviroment".

Now if came uninvited to your "home" or "natural enviroment" what would your reaction be?

It is unfourtunate that people are killed by wild animals--but they are here are hopefully never go away.

I don't think that the Gators, Sharks, Bears, Lions, and other undomesticated animals are EVIL--they are just trying to make a living like the rest of us.

However as someone else stated: far many fatal dog attacks occur each year. The Dog can be our friend or foe--just how we raise it.

You don't have to be faster than the Gator--just faster than you friend with you.
Posted By Anonymous Perry, ATL, GA : 3:58 PM ET
Could Al GOre be the next "Nixon"? I don't know, but I'd rather think that Newt Gingrich could be the next "Reagan", who was not thought to be "electable" when he ran the first itme.
Posted By Anonymous Don Henson, Chattanooga TN : 7:38 PM ET
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