PORT RICHEY, Fla. – The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said it was assisted by New Port Richey Police and the Pasco County Sheriff's Office in catching a 10-foot alligator off the coast of Durney Key on Saturday.
"I've been here for 50 years. This is the first time I’ve ever seen it and the first time a lot of my friends have seen it.”
According to FWC, the Sheriff’s Office notified them around 11 a.m. Saturday that the gator was spotted swimming in the area. A Facebook post from the Sheriff’s Office said the gator was actually chasing swimmers, and people who were scalloping. A contracted nuisance trapper was dispatched by FWC and the gator was removed.
“I couldn’t believe it. My initial thought, as we’re floating up the river, I’m thinking, ‘Oh, he’s a little four-footer, a little five-footer – probably no big deal. They should be able to get him easy,” said Lake. “When I saw the pictures – that thing is big.”
Fishermen and kayakers at Brasher Park Monday said, like Lake, they were surprised to hear a gator was swimming so far from shore.
“When you’re a fisherman, you expect it. You keep your eyes open if you’re fishing freshwater, and you kind of relax a little bit around saltwater. So, now you know you have to keep your eyes open either way,” said Port Richey resident Patrick Tillman.
Sunset Landing Marina Owner Tim Tonkin said he saw the sheriff’s boats go past his business Saturday morning. He wasn’t too surprised to hear there’d been a gator sighting – he’s spotted them in the brackish water just feet from his docks in the past.
“All last week, we were inundated with rain and rain and rain,” Tonkin said. “It’s like it didn’t stop. So, I’m sure the water became more fresh than salt, so he was able to meander out a little bit further than normal.”
All 67 of Florida’s counties are home to alligators, according to FWC. While they’re usually associated with freshwater, the agency said they can also be found in brackish water habitats and in saltwater for short periods of time.
“Anywhere there is standing water, an alligator might be found,” FWC said in a statement.
Tonkin said he’s skeptical about reports this alligator was chasing swimmers.
“Now, that’s the part I find a little unusual because I think if he was really chasing somebody, it’s in his environment – he probably would’ve gotten somebody,” he said.
Still, some said they plan to be more vigilant around the water.
“I almost want to back away from the water. I definitely want to keep an eye out,” said Tillman.
“I’m pretty sure we’re going to start looking for them,” said Lake. “We may have went by them in the past and just never saw them, because why would we be looking for a gator?”
FWC reminds the public to never feed alligators and keep your distance if you see one. Stick to designated swimming areas and try not to go out past daylight hours. If you’re a pet owner, they recommend keeping four-legged friends on leashes and away from the water.
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