Family's fears confirmed: Alligator responsible for dog's death in Cape Coral

Amy Bennett Williams
Fort Myers News-Press

What is a nightmarish fear for Southwest Florida pet owners was confirmed Thursday by state wildlife officials, who said they have hired a trapper to remove an almost 10-foot alligator in Cape Coral responsible for a dog’s death.

“(Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission) received a report that a dog was taken by an alligator near Crystal Lake in Cape Coral,” spokeswoman Melody Kilborn wrote in an email. “We are saddened to hear about the loss of a beloved family pet.”

Working with the city’s parks and recreation department, the agency dispatched nuisance alligator trapper Tracy Hansen to the lake, “(He) removed a 9’10” alligator from the water,” Kilborn wrote.

What you should know about alligator attacks:Alligator attacks rare in Florida, but nuisance gator numbers on the rise

Alligators, part of the Sunshine State’s natural systems, are a fact of life here, and FWC works to educate residents about how to safely coexisting. Mating season begins in late spring, and it's then the reptiles are more likely to be active and on the move, though encounters can happen at any time.

Alligator-caused injuries are rare, Kilborn says. Since the agency began keeping track in 1948, 413 people have been bitten and 25 killed. Sanibel alligators caused Lee County’s two deaths: one in 2001 and the other in 2004.

“FWC places the highest priority on public safety and administers a Statewide Nuisance Alligator Program to address complaints concerning specific alligators believed to pose a threat to people, pets or property … FWC also works to keep Floridians and visitors informed, including providing advice about Living with Alligators.”

Calls to the Nuisance Alligator Hotline trigger a visit by contracted nuisance alligator trappers to resolve the situation at no direct cost to residents.

Trappers get a $30 stipend for each captured gator, which then become their property.

More:How to tell the difference between a crocodile and an alligator

And:Collier County deputies wrangle 9-foot alligator near bus stop in Golden Gate

In most cases, they’re slaughtered and processed for hides and meat, Kilborn said, which is the primary source of compensation for their services. This particular creature, however, was transferred alive to an alligator farm.

Dogs and cats are about the same size as gators’ natural prey, Kilborn points out. A 2004 study of alligator stomach contents showed that while they prefer fish and reptiles, alligators do eat rats, muskrats and raccoons, which can weigh up to 20 pounds.

“Do not allow pets to swim, exercise or drink in or near waters that may contain alligators” Kilborn said. “Keep pets on a short leash and away from the water.”

The area in the Cape is the future home of the city’s Crystal Lake Park, said spokeswoman Maureen Buice. “Currently, it’s unimproved property that is owned by the city.”

Buice said this is the first she’s heard of any alligator problems there. “In fact, many people who were born and raised in Cape Coral told me that they have never seen an alligator near Crystal Lake.”

More:Headless chickens and goat skulls are part of Santeria. But neighbors worry the remnant carcasses will bring nuisance alligators

Alligator help

People with concerns about an alligator can call FWC’s Nuisance Alligator Hotline at 866-FWC-GATOR (866-392-4286).

To learn more, visit https://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/wildlife/alligator/snap/.