Florida alligator catchers say they're going into debt while trying to protect residents
ORLANDO, Fla. - The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) met on Tuesday to discuss the Nuisance Alligator Private Trapper Program to try and make sure the program remains viable with a limited budget, but trappers are concerned about the future of the program.
Commissioners pointed out during the meeting that there are relatively few trappers who have to respond to thousands of calls per year to remove an alligator that may be a danger to the community. One of the biggest problems facing the state is the growing number of alligators along with the growing population of people moving to Florida and sharing the same space.
Alligators were actually put on the endangered species list in 1967. By 19856 the population had recovered and in 2006 the alligator population was deemed to be stable. Now it’s estimated that there are one-million gators across the state, which is why encounters with humans seem to be happening more often.
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When there is a call for a nuisance alligator, that’s when the trappers are called. Currently, they only get a $30 stipend to catch the alligator. They can then either sell the gator or have it processed for hide and meat. But the market for both of those products is not always stable. Trappers say this is unsustainable because gas prices are higher, and they only get paid if they catch the alligator. If the gator is gone or unable to be trapped, they don’t get paid for their time and effort.
So, FWC is looking to increase the stipend to $50 per alligator trapped. Trappers also say it would be beneficial if they were paid for every call, or permit because they are still putting out time and effort, even if they can’t find the animal.
There are currently 113 trappers statewide that respond to about 10,000 calls per year. Many of the trapped who spoke at the public hearing also talked about getting bitten, showing just how dangerous the job is even with the low payment. They say it would be good for everyone if the state could somehow find more money to keep this valuable service going because the problem certainly isn’t going away.